Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one to shame me with her words. Several people I knew denied my unbearable sadness with comments like:
- "You're not depressed. Your feelings are normal."
- "Depression doesn't exist. It's all in your mind."
- "You don't have it so bad. Why would you be depressed?"
For the longest time, I felt as if I had to act as if my depression wasn't real because other people "had it worse than me" and I had "no right to be depressed." I pretended that I was okay. I put on a smile and a tough exterior because even when I did open up, I was told that all I needed to do was find some motivation.
What these people didn't understand was that I couldn't just motivate myself.
Some months ago, I found an old Xanga journal online that I kept during college. In it, I wrote things like:
- "Sometimes things are just so overwhelming, so degrading, so fear-inducing, that it seems easier to just let go, to fail, to fall apart."
- "It is hard to believe the good things people say about you, especially when the bad things seem much truer."
- "I base my goodness on how other people perceive me... so every time somebody does something that makes me feel unwanted, abandoned, uncared about, i freak out and i hate myself."
- "I hate myself. You don't understand. Like i really hate myself."
Even all of my poetry from this time is full of dark images and an unrelenting sadness.
I was not happy to be alive.
Looking back now, through the lens my therapist has provided me with, I recognize that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and possibly something more.
Although I can never know for sure, I think my college years may have gone better if more people believed me when I told them I was depressed. Sure, I didn't have lung cancer or lose my house in a tsunami, but I had very real problems that affected me in very real ways.
Perhaps I would be in a better place today if I had accepted more mental health services at the time. Sadly, I never took the medication the college psychiatrist prescribed to me because I knew others would disapprove and tell me I didn't need it.
Even though awareness of the issue of mental health is rising, mental health disorders are still stigmatized, and it pains me how people would rather deny the existence of depression than accept its reality. At least now, I am able to acknowledge for myself that depression is not something that I can easily "get over."
It's a process. Healing takes time.
This post is also linked with Shell's Pour Your Heart Out and Flash Friday Blog.