Depression is a very common diagnosis among Americans. It affects roughly 14.8 million adults every year. It destroys families, self-esteem, friendships, careers, and lives. At times it can push someone to his or her breaking point, and challenge families to their wits end. For me however, I spent years running from the sadness and chaos, always placing temporary Band-Aids on the wounds that grew deeper and deeper each year.
It was shortly before my 13th birthday that I was diagnosed with depression. I didn’t exactly know what depression was or how someone might define it. How does someone explain to a 12 year old is that the reason why they can’t seem to get out of bed or keep down a meal is because of a chemical imbalance in their brain that they have no control over? It simply wasn’t something that I knew how to handle, and nor did the people around me.
For years I spent my time temporarily healing my sadness. The anti-depressants that I was on and off of for years always made me feel like a lifeless zombie. It’s as if I was living, but I didn’t care about anyone or anything. I was emotionless and apathetic, incapable of experiencing pleasure and joy. The various Band-Aids that I used over the years were nothing short of “typical” unhealthy coping skills. This ranged from drugs to alcohol, cutting to starving, binging to purging, sleeping to crying, and often denial.
By never completely addressing the issues that were at hand, I never learned how to cope with the shitty feelings that often came along with depression. Everyday I was constantly looking for my next fix, the new trick that would temporarily relieve my shitty demeanor until I was in the safety of my own home, and even then that wasn’t always enough. All this seemed to do was leave me feeling even more down, depressed, and hopeless about the future. I questioned my ability to be a functioning adult in society since I couldn’t get myself out of bed some days.
It wasn’t until I was at the beach with a guy friend of mine that I took a good look at how my depression has manifested and affected me over the years. I couldn’t help but realize that although I was in a city that I wanted to be in and spending time with an individual I wanted to be with, I was still sad. I wasn’t going to escape these feelings just because I was temporarily relocating myself or placing distractions in my way. I had spent over 5 years of my life sweeping my feelings under the rug and it all started to boil towards the surface.
Facing depression is never something that is looked at as chic or glamorous. Admitting that I needed help was always thought of to be the first step, but for me it was being okay with the fact that I needed help. I realized that I had to stop beating myself up for seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication everyday. I couldn’t blame myself for a chemical imbalance that I have no control over and I can’t expect to ever experience joy in my life if I don’t cope with my sadness. Although I no longer have fresh wounds on my legs or a grumbling stomach at the end of the night, it is still a journey that I have to face each and everyday of my life.