"depression isn't being sad when everything in your life is going wrong -- it's being sad when everything is going right." - andrea mcdonald
Depression has a stigma attached to it, and let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s not the greatest one. Mental illness in general in our society is not taken lightly, and because of this, we are often times ashamed to admit that we are struggling with things. It’s the whispers that you’re weak, it’s the comments that you’re crazy, it’s the idea that you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself, it’s the stigma… and so you hold it in and you hide it.
Depression does not discriminate, so you can imagine the vulnerability it took for me to finally admit that I suffer from depression. As a counselor, even with all of my education and training, I am not invisible to depression. Depression does not discriminate.
One of the most common misconceptions about depression is that depression is just being sad when something in your life goes wrong; When you break up with your boyfriend, when you lose your job, when you lose a loved one who has been ill, but that’s just sadness. Sadness is a natural thing; that’s a natural human emotion. Depression isn’t being sad when something in your life goes wrong. Depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right.
Recently, I had been looking forward to a very long and overdue vacation with my family. I looked forward to time away from the hustle and bustle of work, school, and expectations, but most importantly, it was time that I got to spend with the people that meant the most to me; what could go wrong?
The first day, everything went great! I was so happy to see my family. I was so happy to be in one of my favorite cities; vacation was off to the great start that I knew it would be. The next couple of days? I first woke up in what I initially thought was just a funk. I thought that I was tired, or grumpy, but I quickly realized that it was so much more than just waking up on the wrong side of the bed. I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was suffering through a depressive episode… a depressive episode at what was supposed to be one of my happiest weeks. How could this happen? What was there to be depressed about? Everything was great!
I was frustrated that all I wanted to do was lay in bed. I was frustrated that I didn’t want to be around anyone. I was frustrated that if I allowed myself to stare off into space for too long that I would soon have unexplained tears running down my cheeks. I was frustrated that I was feeling this again. Depression isn’t the chicken pox- it isn’t something that you beat once and it’s gone forever. Depression is something that you live with. Depression is something that I live with.
Because I am a counselor, because I help people overcome their own depressive episodes, because I have spent years helping children in a hospital overcome their darkest days, I was ashamed to come forward with these feelings. I was afraid to share what was really going on inside of me. Now, reflecting upon the experience? I am even more ashamed to admit that I became a part of the stigma, that I did not fight against the asinine ideologies and that I did not demand that my family understand my illness, and that I did not demand that they learn more about depression. If we do not educate our loved ones, our friends, our bosses, our coaches, our teachers, how can we expect them to be efficient support systems for us?
I laid in bed claiming that I was tired. Sometimes I slept. Most times I didn’t. But the whole time I laid there alone and frustrated with my depression, instead of inviting people in to see what I was feeling, and to feel this darkness with me, instead of outside of me.
I don’t share this to draw attention to myself, I don’t share this to gather sympathy from people around me, I share my story to educate. I share my story to empower others. Depression does not discriminate, BUT depression can segregate if we continue to let it, so will you let it? Or will you take a stand and speak up for yourself?