Depression is something I have been experiencing for a long time now. I believe for me it showed up in middle school and has followed me into adulthood.
The first signs started in middle school, when I first learned that my parents really fought and that my dad was and abusive man. To top it off I was dealing with changes my body was going through and the new found weight of societal expectations for teenage girls; what it meant to be beautiful, intelligent, and valued as a female.
But it wasn’t that big of a deal… right? Everyone deals with this stuff.
By the end of grade 10 my grades started to reflect a significant decline. I was tired all the time, had a hard time focusing on homework at home. This was out of the norm for me. I was a curious kid and always enjoyed learning. Despite the changes I still managed to keep up with AP classes, Varsity sports and Choir. I was an involved kid. I like it that way. The less time I had to spend at home the better. No big deal. Normal teenage stuff… right?
Slowly though the things that mattered to me all became muted, lack luster and lost meaning. I found myself being associated with descriptives like “lazy” and “fat” from family. But I didn’t see myself like that at all. I was trying… it just wasn’t showing for some reason. I became a source of frustration for my parents because they couldn’t figure out why on earth I couldn’t get my act together despite having everything I could possibly need handed to me to be happy and successful.
And I couldn’t figure it out either. Why was it so hard to just do it (Nike swoosh). I knew I was more than capable in many ways yet all my energy seemed to be drained by trying to be ready to be ready. I would try to reason with myself (even up until a few years ago) by citing all the opportunities and support I have received through out my life from friends and family. But it would only frustrate me and fuel the torch that I was carrying that I did not have a valid or good enough reason to be depressed. I couldn’t be depressed. That was something that only happened to the weak of mind… right?
It became a vicious cycle that never led to any improvement. And to make matters worse people close to me fueled that flame further by re-iterating the “facts”. That I had no reason to be depressed. I was too “strong” and had so many cushiony things to be thankful for.
I don’t blame them for giving me bad advise though. People just didn’t know better. Honestly, most still don’t because it is the same mindless advise handed down to them. Although there is a shift taking place, most people are not being educated on mental health.
Till this day, as an adult that struggles with depression, I hear this misinformed advise pop up in conversations often. It usually takes form in the guise of a well intended pep-talk. ” Don’t be silly. Look on the bright side! You have so much to be thankful for (insert job, car, house, etc.) You just need to work a little harder, be more motivated or stop being so sensitive.”
Really? Its maddening. For many different reasons. But the main reason is that there is this pervasive notion that someone has to reach a subjective standard of being in a truly shit circumstance to be worthy of being able to feel or be depressed. Furthermore if you manage to jump that hurdle you better be prepared to jump another one to get over the stigma associated with seeking help for it. And if you don’t meet the subjective acceptable levels of being in a rough spot then be prepared to dawn the label of being a drama queen, someone that doesn’t take ownership or just being plain lazy.
Look I’m not advocating for depression to be a scapegoat for individuals who happen to be carriers of the not so great attributes listed above. But there is a difference between being plain lazy and being depressed. It may or may not be so obvious at times; but thats were the aid of your friendly mental healthcare practitioner or simply spending time researching the topic would come in handy. Mmmk.
We don’t question someones validity to be sick when they are diagnosed with a cold or especially with something like cancer. So why do we question them when they are experiencing a form of psychological illness? It makes no sense.
Colds and Cancer don’t discriminate. Neither does depression.
It doesn’t matter what your socio economic class is, how tall you are, what color your skin is, what your age is, what your sex is, what car you drive or what your home mortgage costs every month. Depression can happen to anyone. It is not some right you have to earn to be justified in experiencing it. It just happens.
You are allowed to feel it, talk about it, and most importantly seek help for it no matter who you are or what your life circumstance is.