My struggles began in adolescence. My once smiling and sunny demeanor began to change and I had difficulty coping with life, especially social situations. I could be the life of the party or curled up in a ball in my room. While I was known as the girl with a smile on my face, that smile masked dark thoughts and depression.
The more I tried to run and hide from my depression, the worse it got. I didn’t want anyone to see my struggles because I did not understand them and I perceived them as a weakness. I continually tried to cover up my depression, but it had taken a stronghold on me and wouldn’t let go. My parents begged me to get help, but I refused. Finally, my dad laid on the floor with me one day when I had no strength to physically move, and, with tears in his eyes, told me he didn’t want to lose me. I began talk therapy the next week.
Throughout high school and college, I continued to learn about myself and work through my depression; however, anxiety, especially social anxiety, crept in as well. That’s the thing about depression – it can start to manifest itself in multiple ways.
So instead of dealing with it, I put my mask back on. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me, so I faked my way through social interactions and day to day life. When things would get bad, I would do everything in my power to make sure no one knew. The bigger my smile was, the more depressed I was.
My senior year of college, my depression took deep hold and my life began to spiral. I could not get out of bed for days. I stopped going to class. I stopped eating. I stopped talking to anyone. In order to feel some relief from my pain, I would cut chunks out of my hair, a physical manifestation of how I felt inside. My depression had taken everything away from me and left me a shell of a person. I couldn’t take the pain anymore and decided to end my life.
Thanks to my family, friends, and doctors, I survived and got the help I needed. That was 14 years ago. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.
My demons still sneak up on me, more often than I care to admit, but I have learned how to live with them. My mask still comes on when I am trying to cover up my depression and there are times when I need to recuse myself from anxiety provoking situations. Through a lot of therapy (which is still ongoing), I have learned that my mental illness is my superpower, and work to use its darkness for good. I journal often, and work to find positive ways to channel my energy. I talk openly about my struggles in the hopes that I can help someone realize that living with depression is ok. You don’t have to lose your battle with this disease.
My story isn’t over yet.