I remember telling friends of mine about my depression. I remember sitting there twiddling my thumbs and feeling like I was telling a big shameful secret. I remember that I had feelings of irritability, anxiety, and loneliness all throughout that particular day and felt terrible. I also remember my friends' looks of shock and then the fake compassion being sprawled across their faces as if they really cared. At the time, I was just reaching out for help and wanted someone to hear me out. Sadly, after I disclosed that I dealt with depression, it seemed like people would unfairly use it against me to justify their negative actions towards me. Then, I often felt like I was the topic of discussion and that people were judging me. As a result, I grew resentful of the fact that I was vulnerable with anyone, especially once the nature of a couple relationships changed. I thought that people were rejecting me because I was depressed. What I didn't realize is that it wasn't me, it was just that the people I opened up to weren't equipped to talk about such a prominent issue such as depression. In fact, no one really talks about depression.
Depression is seen as "other" when depression is a universal thing. People who are depressed are deemed as people who should be either gloomy, negative, or crazy as hell. No one ever thinks that depressed people are the people right across the street from them. No one ever thinks that depressed people are people too; people who attend work, church, and still laugh with their friends. It's just that some days are harder than others. But, if you've experienced life, you have experienced forms of depression (anxiety, sadness, irritability, and self-isolation). However, you can transform from Negative Nancy to Positive Patty by just putting yourself around positive people, training your mind to think positively, and by seeking help.
We all need help. Counseling is a cathartic way to express what's on your mind and have it mirrored back to you. Going to counseling does not make you crazy or a weirdo. Going to counseling actually means that you're taking responsibility for your own life and your state of mind. Sometimes it isn't enough to get prayed over by the preacher. Sometimes you truly need a professional to assist you in your journey. What stops people who suffer from poor mental health from receiving help is the stigma associated with mental health issues. I think that being around people who already shared a negative view of people with depression stunted me as well. I recall one of my former friends making a joke out of Andre Lyon's (character portrayed by Trai Byers in "Empire") bipolar episode and stating that he was crazy. I sat there with my feelings hurt.
Anticipated rejection and shame from the outside world is one of the reasons why I waited to go to counseling. I had a complete meltdown that made me feel that in order to end the pain I needed to take a bottle of pills. I even visualized how it would be when the police finally found me laying on my bathroom floor. This prompted me to schedule counseling sessions at my college. Thankfully, taking the next step helped me overcome my depression. Now, I know it's okay to not be okay as long as I'm working towards improving. More importantly, I don't let depression define me nor do I apologize for being me. I'm very sensitive. I will cry at the drop of a hat. I feel everything intensely and deeply. I love hard. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can't pretend. My face tells it all. Still, I am worthy. And I still will continue to tell my truth in the efforts to help normalize depression and help other people cope.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.