By Delta Gamma:
I’m not sure when or where I first heard the term ‘depression’, but I knew right away that it wasn’t a good thing. Maybe it was in primary school, when my grandmother passed away and left me feeling like a gaping hole had opened up in my chest. Maybe it was in my late teens when images of screaming, crushing domestic violence began to sear the edges of the hole in my chest. Maybe it was losing my best friend to cancer that finally did me in, with me deciding to follow her; somehow, I didn’t know how. And maybe, when I couldn’t actually press a blade to my skin hard enough, or take enough pills to do the trick, maybe it was hearing, “Some people have it worse than you” that really hollowed me out.
Depression made me swing between numbness and another crushing feeling I can’t quite describe, and I had progressed beyond self-harm. That’s where I was, in the prime of my life (people tell me) trying to throw it all away, and a voice in the back of my mind laughing sardonically at my ‘privileged girl panic’. Everybody hurts, right R.E.M.? I just had to suck it up and power through, and everything would be fine, because there were college exams to give, and people to visit, and jobs to look for, and “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,” so “Look at the bigger picture!”
You can’t just walk away from depression. Depression is not a bad movie you can eject from your BluRay player, and pop in another you like better. Depression is the lining under your skin, the sharp feeling in your lungs when you breathe. It’s the invisible rope coiling around your neck when you find yourself trying (far too often) not to cry. And it’s the heavy feeling that keeps you pinned to your bed in the morning, when you’re too afraid to move. I thought my depression would be a quiet phase I would slide out of, but it was full of random violent outbursts, losing control of my speech, my ability to move. Entire patches of my memory were obliterated, and when I wasn’t allowed to hurt myself, I would hurt whatever came too close to me. Depression was a voice that kept telling me the only way out was the one you can never turn back from.
I found myself in a psychiatrist’s office – with my parents on the other side of the door, probably thinking they had intervened just in the nick of time. But all I got were cliches, platitudes and the advice I could’ve googled for free. So I nodded to everything just to get out of there quick and easy. And I soon learned that it was more important that people around me – the psychiatrist, my parents, my friends and classmate – were reassured that everything was fine, than actually working through an ‘invisible illness’ that no one really had time for. I didn’t have the language to talk about my depression, and I knew no one was equipped to handle it. So it became my modus operandi to ignore my rapidly deteriorating mental condition.
“How are you?” someone asks. “Good, I only thought about suicide thrice today,” I want to say, but I stop at “Good.”
“What plans for the future?” someone asks. “None. I didn’t expect to live this long,” I think, but instead I say, “I’m still figuring it out.”
“Why do you never hang out with me?” someone complains. And I almost say, “My depression is going to drive you away, eventually.”
Only I don’t, because I’m too busy convincing myself that I don’t have time to expend on being depressed. And this became the most damaging part of my depression – where I became too afraid, too distrusting to ask for help and receive it. Now on days that I spin out of control, when my condition puts my whole life on hold, I almost let myself go completely. And a vicious cycle begins with piling work, and concerned texts from friends, and the cautious gaze of people around me that pushes me back further down the hole.
But I wonder – how can I start to let people in? How can I start to accept the help that I need? So little is known about the causes and effects of depression, despite our years and years of research. But maybe the less out-of-touch we feel about mental health, the quicker we can begin to address these issues, for ourselves and for the people who know who need it the most.