When I was growing up, I always had the same image pop into my head whenever someone mentioned the word “depressed.” The girl with the sad eyes who hides in corners and doesn’t speak to anyone. The girl who refuses to leave her bed for days. The girl who cries all the time. And even for most of my life, it was this label which only fit a certain stereotype. It was not the girl who does her makeup every day and spends hours on her hair. It was not the girl who laughs and smiles and chats to you in the office. It was not the girl with the seemingly perfect life.
Except it was. It is.
Because I’ve come to learn that depression wears many faces. Depression is easy to hide if it wants to. Depression can laugh and joke and look glamorous. Depression can go for a run at 6 a.m. and have a successful career. Depression can go home to a perfect partner and sleep in a beautiful home. Depression can raise three kids. Depression can do anything that you can do, maybe better. Depression does not need a set of terrible circumstances to exist. It can be just one thing, it can even be nothing at all. It can be a place or a person or an experience.
For me, depression lived at my undergraduate university, it lived at my postgraduate house. It existed with no money and loneliness. It existed again when I graduated and found myself stuck in a job I didn’t want and living somewhere I really didn’t want to be. It existed in every single job rejection I got, every un-answered application. Every time someone asked how I was and if I was moving forward yet. It grew big and dark, it was loud and sometimes quiet but it was always there. Like walking beneath a thick black cloud, always waiting to be struck by lightning, sometimes hoping I would be.
And even still, when people would ask if I was depressed, if they suggested it as a way to clump all of my emotions and thoughts under one tidy label, I resisted it. I didn’t want to be thought of as “depressed.” I didn’t want people to pity me or be afraid of me or not know what to say. I didn’t want to feel vulnerable and exposed and on display. It was easier to be happy and bubbly and sarcastic. It was easier to mask my pain with humor than to accept what was really going on. If I admitted it, then I had to actually talk about it and if I had to do that then I would have to be real and honest, and that was probably one of the most terrifying thoughts for me. I knew no one could fix it. They could only suggest solutions. Offer me ideas I had thought of a thousand times. It only made me feel like more of a failure than I already did.
Of course, I knew it would “get better,” of course I knew I could get a different, equally dead-end job, of course I knew “good things come to those who wait,” I knew that I was talented and hardworking and deserving. I knew all of those things and no amount of hearing them or telling myself them stopped me from feeling as if I was drowning in my own body. They did not relieve any of the anger or frustration I felt. Feelings which I could not direct at anyone other than myself. They did not stop me from believing it would be easier if I just didn’t exist. Because if I didn’t exist, I couldn’t keep failing, I wouldn’t keep waking up and wishing I had a different life, I wouldn’t keep thinking that it would never get better.
It’s not so much that I wanted to kill myself, I just wanted it to stop. I wanted to not be me. I was tired of being me. Exhausted.
But what I have come to realize through all of this, when riding the tides of my depression is that it’s okay. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. To feel like giving up. It is okay to lie in bed and cry until your chest feels as if it might collapse. It is okay to feel like you are drowning when everything in the world feels against you. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of the fight. It doesn’t mean you are somehow “messed up,” “insane,” or “scary.” It doesn’t mean you belong to any of the labels which have so wrongly been associated with an illness which convinces you that you are a burden. That the world would be better off without you. That if you speak up, people will tell you that your problems are trivial. That you are being pathetic. That you just need to get your act together.
The problem is not with you, it is with society. With a world that must put people into boxes to make others feel more comfortable. It is with people who are afraid of that which they cannot understand.
The world has built up walls which those suffering feel they must hide behind. It has taken away people’s identity and left them as only their illness.
But you are not, you are still you.
And in case no one has told you today;
you are loved,
you are needed.
Because you are the only you that exists and this world needs more of you, it runs on people like you, it lights up because of it.
And whatever you are facing, no matter how small you may believe others will perceive it to be, it is valid.
We all have a voice, a story, a reason and all of them are worthy.
You are worthy.