It’s all too common today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 350 million people worldwide have experienced it, exceeding the population of the United States by nearly 25 million. Yet no one talks about it. And when they do, it’s rarely helpful and almost never completely honest.
Since I began to suspect that I had depression around the age of 12, I have heard every “solution” people have to offer: “Just be happy!” “Try not to think about it;” “It’s just hormones;” “Your life is great! How can you be depressed?” None of that solves anything. Most of the time, depression isn’t even sadness. It’s an empty feeling that will not go away. It tells you that you deserve nothing and no one, that your life is not worth living, and that there is nothing you can do to change that. And more often than not, you feel like there is no one on earth who cares. So you tell no one.
I went almost five years before I told anyone that I was drowning in depression every day, and I could only work up that courage during one of my better mental health periods. It was risky, I thought. It could mean ruined relationships and more time suffering alone. My mother has no experience with mental health disorders herself, and I was horribly afraid that she would be angry or disappointed with me.
That was the last response I expected. For years, my brain had convinced me that she didn’t care, that I was a burden on her, that everything wrong with me made her love me less and less- and don’t get me started on what I see wrong with me. Those reasons convinced me to try to take my own life when I was fourteen (and thank God I failed). When I confessed all of that, she cried. My mother DOES NOT cry. At least not in front of me.
She promised to take me to the doctor. When I told the pediatrician who has been seeing me since birth everything I’d been through, including months of self-harm and suicidal tendencies, he stopped taking notes on his clipboard, took off his glasses, and stared. He was hardly breathing. He cared about me. I didn’t know that.
He prescribed therapy. I’ve been in therapy for a couple of months now, which is FANTASTIC. I cannot recommend it more for anyone who feels like they’re struggling with any sort of mental disorder. I thought no one would be able to talk me out of the dark hole I’d spent years in, but my therapist has taught me so much about the beauty of living that some days, I can’t even see the darkness anymore. It’s disappearing slowly. Don’t get me wrong- I still have days when I have to work hard to convince my brain that I do deserve to live and that there are so many things that I love deeply enough to keep me here. But those days are getting farther and farther apart. If you are depressive or suicidal even in the slightest, I urge you to find a therapist. Please find the energy and the courage to talk to someone. I have no regrets about it and believe me, I am very prone to regret.
I know there’s no magic cure for depression. It’s a point I have lamented exhaustively. But I can tell you the key to getting better: stop lying to yourself. Your brain will lie to you until you are sure that everyone wants you dead. That is NOT true. In sharing my story, I have found that the very people who I thought would be relieved to find me dead are the ones who love me the most. My friends told me they wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning knowing I was gone. That shocked me. So I can assure you that there are far, far more people than you can ever imagine who love you and worry about you and want you to be okay. Whatever you do, DO NOT listen to the voice in your head that contradicts that truth. There is a reason for you to be alive, and even if you cannot see it yet, be patient. Patience is the best thing I have found in this. Better days will come. It sounds trite, but better days have always shown themselves to me. You may live the rest of your life fighting off depression constantly, but I count that as a blessing. I can reach so many people- 350 million, to be exact- who feel like I do. It’s really a gift. I would have wanted someone to talk to me and understand, and no doubt you do too. You have the ability to be that person for someone else.
I have linked a wonderful article from mentalhelp.net about mental health hotlines. Please do not be shy about calling any of the hotlines listed. These hotlines exist for a reason, and you aren’t inconveniencing anyone. This article also lists a few things to say if you have as much trouble talking as I do.
I swear to you, you are worth saving. And depression really, really sucks.
Do not forget that you will never be alone.