If a complete stranger evaluated my life by my Instagram account, they would probably think I was your typical happy sorority girl surrounded by a bunch of friends who gets to do some cool things in her life. I’m one of those girls who is obsessed with editing photos and shamelessly asks her close friends to like her picture as soon as she posts it; I’ve come to accept that that’s the culture I live in and I may as well embrace it. But rewind a few words back to the word happy. Happy is an interesting word in my life because for me, it’s a little harder to achieve than most people. And sure, everyone has their rough days, but a lot of people don’t understand why sometimes I have to be alone in my room when all my girlfriends are over in my apartment hanging out or why I lay awake every night without ever being able to fall asleep. I know that I’m not alone in this, but anyone who can relate to me knows that it certainly feels that way.
I always overhear people telling their friends stories around campus and all too often these stories end with the expression “I’m so depressed” or “It makes me feel depressed.” And truthfully, I’ve used it casually too. But sometimes it enrages me that such an expression is used so casually in conversation. Because in all honesty, you don’t want to be depressed and you don’t want something to make you feel depressed; take it from someone who knows firsthand. Depression is not something to casually throw around and it sucks that a lot of people don’t realize that. But honestly, from my experience, even though it is one of the most frustrating things when someone doesn’t understand what I’m going through, I wouldn’t want anyone I care about to actually have to experience depression and know how awful it really is.
It’s irrational. Why is my mind so messed up? I’m currently experiencing “the best 4 years of my life,” so why am I going through this awful misery? Why do I feel so lonely all the time when I have so many people in close proximity to me that care? I’m one of those people that keeps everything to themselves. I don’t like talking about my feelings and I don’t like telling people my problems. For one, it makes them more real. But deep down the real reason is knowing that people will never truly understand what I’m going through and its not worth the effort of trying to make them.
There is no way to ever explain what depression feels like. And unless you’ve experienced it, you will never know what it feels like or understand what someone is going through. You don’t always have an answer as to why you’re depressed; it just happens. And when it does, it takes over. And it feels like you’re living in your own personal hell while simultaneously drowning and watching everyone around you breathing just fine. And they tell you, “just be happy.” But telling you to be happy is like telling someone who has asthma to “just breathe normally, there’s plenty of air.” It is the darkest kind of dark that intoxicates your brain. That feeling of emptiness that eats away at you on the inside until you’re nothing but the ghost of the person you once were, incapable of feeling anything but sadness and numbness.
I’m sitting here writing this and thinking what’s the point? This is not going to solve any of my problems. I don’t like to share this part of me with many people in the first place, so why am I writing about it so publicly? I guess I just want other people who share my pain to know that You. Are. Not. Alone. I even need to remind myself sometimes. No matter how lonely you may get, even when you’re surrounded by people and friends who care about you, you have to hold on. Hold on to the hope that you will have better days. Even if these good days come from the effects of anti-depressants, it can get better.
I think I have an obsession with Instagram because I want my life to seem like it’s great and I’m a normal 20-year-old girl who lives her life fully. I can completely relate to that UPenn student, Madison Holleran, who committed suicide last year. UPenn was my dream school; that could have easily been me in her position with my mental state and all that pressure. There was recently an article that ESPN came out with about Madison and her Instagram account and how it in no way reflected the internal mental struggle she was going through. Her life looked ideal through her Instagram pictures; but she was hiding a huge secret. And I think that’s what I do; maybe that’s what a lot of us do. We romanticize our lives on social media accounts like Instagram for other people to see because we don’t want them to know the struggles we’re actually going through. People do what they have to do to get by. And sometime for people like me, it is an extreme struggle to just “get by”; and that’s ok. It’ll all be ok someday, even if we don’t know when that someday will be. And as for those times when you’ve never felt lonelier, just remember there are people out there that understand and feel the same way; take comfort in that because in the darkest times that may be the only thing you have to cling on to.