It’s interesting trying to explain the agony that depression brought into my life to people who are not depressed. I find that people who haven’t fought that particular battle have difficulty understanding what I mean when I say I was not in physical pain per se but I was in excruciating torment nonetheless. Physically, I’m sure my body showed no signs of peril.
And publicly, I never let my guard down for fear of judgement. But emotionally, I was aflame with terror and self-hatred. As someone who has struggled with eating disorders and anxiety since I was twelve, I am somewhat used to intense personal turmoil. Depression was something else. It was as if there was a cavity in my soul that was sore and inflamed with sorrow and loneliness. I had to clutch myself, my arms wrapped tightly around my torso, to keep from disintegrating. It was as if I had been punched in the chest by an iron-clad fist. A hole in my heart yearned for healing and love. And after so many years of fighting to make my body smaller, more frail, devoid of life, I was stunned to once again realize that the option of death seemed more logical than any attempt at life. Reason failed in that moment. Depression’s perversion of reality trumped the truth.
I did not take my life. I survived the moment where I was my most lethal enemy. But whenever I try to tell people about what happened, they don’t seem to understand where my desire to end the pain would come from, unless they also have fought mental health battles. The power of depression is remarkable. It can effectively convince you that despite your connections, your family, your ability, or your friends, you are worthless and alone in the world, that you will never be loveable, and that your existence is a colossal mistake. I want others who don’t battle depression to understand that you will never be able to tell that someone is depressed just by looking at them. I hid my struggle so well that my own family, a loving, wonderful support system, were blindsided. Making the disease invisible was a personal pride of mine, because then I could convince the world that I was not weak or pathetic.
Depression doesn't have a look
The stereotypes of people with depression are extensive. They range from people not being able to get out of bed, shower, eat, or leave their house. And while these are definite truths for some people, depression is like snowflakes: No two are the same. My depression has its own ways of manifesting itself in my behaviours and thoughts. But someone else’s could be the polar opposite. Which makes neither more or less valid than the other.
Asking for help does not make a person feeble. In fact, it does the opposite. It fortifies you. It demonstrates your willingness to fight for yourself. It makes you the hero of your own story. One day, I hope we can unite on the idea that depression is not a disgraceful condition. And for people who do not experience depression but may know someone who does, be a friend to them. Be gentle and patient. They are fighting every day to overcome an invisible barrier. You don’t have to understand what they’re feeling, just that a little empathy can go a long way.
I no longer carry shame for what I experience. I hope many others do in the future so that isolation due to mental health might one day be an object of the past.