I’ve gone my whole life believing that I was perfectly fine. I flat out denied the possibility that I couldn’t do everything on my own. From an early age, I strove to be independent (as much as I could) and rarely “sunk” to the level of letting people in. This complex carried itself over into the status of my mental health. I look happy. I smile a lot, so I must be okay. Right?
At the age of 8, I had my first panic attack. My grandmother was babysitting me as my mom was staying in a hospital a few towns over. I just found out she was sick. I didn’t fully understand it, so I didn’t think much about it. But I did notice that things were changing. One night, as everything seemed perfectly normal, a weight the size of a truck collapsed onto my consciousness and I lost every sensible aspect of myself and I screamed. I screamed and screamed until my throat was raw, and my poor grandmother was beside herself, feeling nothing but helpless. Eventually, I just blamed the attack on the situation and my young age. It couldn’t be a recurring problem. I didn’t talk about that moment again for a long time.
As I got older, I started to notice myself change. I started to get irritable. I was snappy to my parents and my friends, and it carried over into my adult life and my relationship. I started to get sad about things that didn’t warrant sadness. I stopped having reasons for my tears, but I let them fall anyway. I blamed it on stress. I was fine.
Depression doesn’t always just hit you. It slowly works its way into your being without you noticing, feeding on your insecurities and your weaknesses until you no longer feel like yourself anymore. It starts with an attitude. A mood swing. A negative thought here and there. Eventually you find it harder and harder to get out of bed. You start to lose touch with the reasons you do the things that you do. And before you know it, you come home from class or work or whatever and spend the rest of your night lying in bed wondering how the hell you got like this. But you still get up and do the things you have to do, because you keep convincing yourself and everyone around you that you’re happy. You don’t need anyone’s help. You’re fine.
That is what everyone has come to know as high functioning depression. But here’s the problem with that. If you’re like me, and always refused to let people in, high functioning soon becomes less functioning. You become drained from putting all your energy into hiding this part of yourself from the world, and there comes a point when you just can’t do it anymore.
If you don’t notice the changes depression impresses upon you, then you won’t think anyone else does, either. We constantly make excuses for our behavior, for our bouts of sadness, and in the end, there doesn’t ALWAYS have to be a reason.
That’s what makes depression such an awful veil to be under.
Keeping my depression to myself eventually made me a shell of a person. I didn’t feel like the same girl my parents raised, or the same woman my partner fell in love with, and feeling this way hurt me so bad that my breathing began to feel like a waste of air.
So for them, I’m coming to terms with myself. I’m finally accepting the fact that I’m struggling with my mental health, and I’m letting others in and doing something to help myself.
Accepting help doesn’t make you weak. Swallowing a pill does not mean you “lost.” It means you were strong enough to look this depression in the eye and say “I know you’re here, I’m not ashamed of you, and I’m finally in charge of my body.” Accepting this part of yourself is the first step to telling your depression that it’s unwelcome, and that you know that you deserve better. Because you’re not fine. And that’s okay. Because you don’t have to be. So now it’s time to get the help you know you deserve.