She could change everything about her using colors bold and bright
But all the c o l o r s mix together – to grey.
And it breaks her heart.
It breaks her heart.
-Grey Street; Dave Matthews Band
Depression. Arguably the least sexy topic ever of possible conversation. I would think most of us know at least some of the denotative concepts- an abnormal and prolonged period of sadness or feelings of emptiness/hopelessness.
But what does depression really even look like for us? And why is it still taboo in the year 2015?
We all get sad at times, but depression is more than sadness. Depression is a warped and exceptionally convincing mindset. A mindset that tells us lies that we take as truths. That you’re not good enough and you never will be. That you’re unattractive, unintelligent, unlovable, a burden to society. It is a suffocating re-occurence of all of these thoughts, haunting without relent. It convinces you that you’re alone. That you are the only person in the world who isn’t lovin’ life at all times. Then, it becomes your friend. Your identity. Who were you before your depression? You can’t remember. Everything in you is in slow motion; but the world is carrying on in cadency, with all its great ambitions . . . without you. Why are you this way, and what did you do wrong?
Here’s the answers:
1. You have an illness.
Because that’s just what depression is- it is an illness (yes, a real, clinical illness) that is waging war in your mind- and its ammunition is lies. It’s difficult to make decisions, you find yourself completely uninterested and detached from what you once loved, and sleep becomes your new escape route. It is debilitating.
You embody the paradox of desperately wanting someone to notice and care and wanting everyone to leave you alone at the same time. Maybe you’ve gained weight, maybe you’ve lost weight. This only further soaks ice water into the grey cloud that hovers over you wherever you go. It’s whispering inadequacies in your ear.
Depression doesn’t discriminate based on anything. Gender, race, socio-economic status…it can be a part of any of us. It is also not a choice. It can be frustrating from those on the outside (I’ve been told) who just want to help and want you to “snap out of it!!” If only it were that simple. Nobody asks for cancer, heart failure, diabetes, or any other physical ailment. In the same way, nobody asks for the imbalances in their brain. If depression were a choice, I guarantee every person with depression would choose for it to do a back handspring into the sunset and never come back.
OKAY SO HERE’S SOME GOOD NEWS NOW:
Depression, though it can be either acute or chronic, is temporary. It will try to convince you otherwise, that you will be this way forever (and it will do a really great job, too). Unfortunately, it can come back. But, it’s manageable with the right resources and support. Seeing a doctor, medication, therapy, talking to friends, talking to family, simply pushing forward and riding it out.. these are all things that I found helpful when I was battling bouts of depression.
I myself didn’t accept any help for a long time. Back in 2013 I didn’t tell a soul for 5 months that I was depressed (even though it was painfully obvious to most anyone who encountered me). I didn’t tell anyone simply put because I was ashamed. I didn’t want to admit that I needed help. My depression convinced me that my problems were beyond help anyway, and that this was who I was now. Due to my pride and confusion, I took the much longer route to get well and to being myself again.
I can’t help but feel that if the conversation about mental illness was more present back then that I could have recovered in a quicker span. All I saw at Clemson were the happy glowing faces I passed each day. The giant friend groups posted up in the dining hall talking about their adventures of the semester. The perfect lives that I wanted. Of course, I know now this not to be true, but as a freshman entering her first semester in the Spring amongst “the second happiest student body in the U.S.” I couldn’t help but feel like I was the only one struggling to get by. In retrospect, statistics and fact show I wasn’t. We can’t assume we know what others are going through – because well, we know nothing.
If you deal with depression– Can I just tell you from someone that’s been there..and then been there again.. It gets better! Depression affects approx. 14.8 million people in the U.S. in a given year. Therefore, you’re not alone in this. There is hope for you. You have strengths that you may not see. I promise you have them. At one point I genuinely believed that I had nothing to bring to the table. I now know that’s a lie! It’s a lie for you as well. Try to let people in. You are not the burden you think you are and most people want to help. If you have no one to talk to, I am by no means a professional and I would recommend talking to one, but I would love to talk to you as well.
If you know someone who has depression– Do not try to fix them immediately. Offer your support, but don’t be offended if it’s not wanted or at least wanted right away. Don’t revolve all your conversations on how they seem down or constantly ask, “what’s wrong????” Sometimes the best thing to do is to just be there with them. Walk through life alongside them. This is what my friend and roommate Allie at Clemson did for me. She was just there and tried to include me in whatever she could. I didn’t always oblige, and I know it was frustrating for her a lot of the time, but she never ever gave up on me.
Something I’ve done in the past is write small notes to myself in the happy seasons of my life in the event that a future depression could creep back in. Basically things like, I promise you Laura, things are going to get better. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. Sounds weird, but each time it gets easier because you can remember it’s possible to recover.
You can come out on the other side– loving the same things you once loved. You are far from stuck forever in a black abyss of self-hatred and feelings of inadequacy, even though I know it may be hard to believe in that kind of hope in the moment. You are more important and more loved than you know!
You are not weak. You are fighting- and each morning when you wake up to go through the motions of the most mundane, you can eventually find that life is worth living. That life is a giant beautiful mess and we’re all getting through it. You’re not your depression or any of the lies in your head. And with all my love I am telling you, you are not the only one!
Some verses I’ve found helpful:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” -Psalm 23:4-5
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18
“For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” -Psalm 116: 8-9
He will bring beauty from ashes.