This past week was Mental Health Week and I was shocked when I realized that this was my 10th year ‘celebrating’ my mental health problem. I was seventeen when I had my thyroid tested for the first time; I had visited my doctor and gave her a breakdown of what I was going through:
“I feel numb and can’t sleep. I stare for hours and can’t get myself to do anything. I hold no attachment to anything and I care for nothing. I see no light or point to this. Please help me…”
She uttered the word depression and I flinched. I knew the stigma and what that meant – mental health. Flashes of me in a straight jacket in a room of blinding white; surrounded by people who set fire to their houses. I didn’t accept her diagnosis and demanded we look into something else. She suggested my thyroid could be the problem and I remembered a family member suffered from an underactive thyroid. That must be it! I sighed with relief and took my slip to the nurse to get my blood drawn.
I received the results a couple days later and my thyroid was completely normal.
What does that mean? Do I really suffer from depression?
I remember looking at my life, I had friends, a great boyfriend, I was good at everything I cared about and my life was great. How could I have depression? It didn’t make sense. I refused to believe it out of pure embarrassment and told no one. Not even my parents.
For the next four years, I went about my life and didn’t take anything for my depression. I lived alone for the most part and cut myself off from the world for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. I was self-medicating and completely ignorant to what I was going through.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. The numbness and hopelessness. I went and had my thyroid checked again, and the results were normal. OK, let’s try anti-depressants. Within three weeks I felt like I’d broken out of water for the first time, I could breathe. I still went through days of numbness, but the medication had me looking to the light. I felt like I could get through the dark spells. I co-exist with my depression; it’s not something I allow to control me anymore.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been more vocal about my mental health, and these have been some of the responses:
- “How could you have depression? You’re such a happy person.”
- “You travel the world – how could you be sad?”
- “But like, are you OK?”
- “What does this mean?”
Depression isn’t sadness for me, that’s circumstantial. For me, everything could be going right in my life and I’m met with two weeks of numbness. I’ve also learned that we have a history of depression on both sides of my family and the more I spoke about it, the more people started to admit their sufferings as well.
Why is there such a stigma towards mental health?
When your stomach aches, you take medicine to alleviate the pain. Why would it be so outlandish to take a pill if your mind was sick? The biggest frustration for me was WHY am I feeling like this. My life is incredible – WHY am I feeling nothing towards anything? I felt anger I can’t even put into words, anger at my body and that it continued to betray me. I had to make peace with the situation, and eventually, I did.
I was lying on my lounge floor staring at the ceiling without a hope in the world. Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever move again. My skin was making me feel claustrophobic but I didn’t have the energy to move. I was teetering on the edge of a breakdown. Then I heard my own voice.
Get. The. Fuck. Off. This. Floor.
I needed to hear my own voice. Nobody could save me but myself. I muttered the words that saved me: “OK, depression. Let’s live together.”
My mindset changed and I decided to live with it and not against it. The mind that betrayed me for so many years was what actually saved me. I stopped fighting and started living.
Your life doesn’t need to be shit to have depression. It doesn’t work that way; some people are just born with it. Stop assuming you know everything and educate yourself. Don’t be that person who sees someone with depression and then nonchalantly says, “Cheer up, bud.”
I personally feel the stigma has subsided slightly. We may have the brave celebrities and influencers to thank for that, it could also be that it was getting too common to ignore. I fought it so hard that I drained myself on a daily basis trying to be ‘normal’. But I’m not normal, and now I can say with confidence: thank fuck for that.