I have depression and anxiety. There, I said it.
This should not be something I am embarrassed to talk about. Just look at the facts: more than 40 million U.S adults have some form of an anxiety disorder and 75 percent of those adults admit to having their first attack by the age of 22. It is not uncommon for people, let alone college students, to have depression and anxiety yet, for some reason, it is taboo in our society.
I believe the main reason why no one says anything is because everyone thinks they are the only ones going through it and no one else understands. In a sense, the latter is correct. The stereotype people use to characterize depression is typically someone who is outwardly sad, always mopey and sits in their room all day. This is far from the truth.
Depression takes on many forms. Yes, there are people with depression who have stereotypical symptoms, but a lot of people smile through it. This is equally, if not more, dangerous because no one knows they are hurting. Therefore, no one checks on them.
When dealing with depression, you do learn to smile through the pain. You learn to act as if nothing is going on when you are experiencing a panic attack, even though you feel as though your whole world is crashing down around you. Every day, you are presented with the same struggles as before and at this point, you think you should have it under control, but how can you?
How do you control the feeling of waking up every morning wishing you hadn’t or the constant state of panic whenever you are in public? It is nearly impossible, yet you somehow learn to manage it.
Not fix it, but manage it.
That is something I have come to realize since struggling with anxiety and depression. There really is not a “cure” for depression, just a way to manage. Around mid-November, I was hospitalized for a panic attack. It was not my first one, and I was used to having them at this point, but I could not handle it anymore. I needed to seek help because I could not continue keeping this to myself.
This constant struggle had gone on for too long and had begun to affect my everyday life. The scariest thing was, when I arrived at the hospital, I was expecting them to be able to “cure” me, but they could not. All they could do was provide me with a new way to help manage these feelings. I was terrified that night, and I remember laying in bed thinking, “Will I be like this forever?” To this day, I wonder if I will ever outgrow this constant sadness I live with.
To be brutally honest, nobody promises the feeling will ever go away, and I have had to come to this realization myself. As much as people like to say it is only temporary, there are no facts backing this up.
When the doctor diagnosed me with depression, I felt guilty. Depression…me? How could someone like me, who has had a relatively easy life, have depression? I did not understand. He explained to me the majority of depression cases stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is not always a root cause of depression—it just shows up.
I find this so important for people to understand—especially for people who do not have depression. Just because someone has been raised in a virtually perfect environment does not discredit their depression—it is a very real thing.
People like to look at others like this and call their depression an “excuse” or a “choice” when it is anything but. Does anyone really think I want this? What person in their right mind wants to go through their day putting on a smile when in reality they just want to cry? What person wants to feel as though the world is better off without them? If depression is a choice, someone please tell me how to choose happiness, because I am all ears.
So, I write this today not just to bring awareness to people, but to urge you to check on your friends. You never know how they are doing if you do not ask. Depression is not always the sad kid sitting alone—it may also be the social, upbeat kid who seems perfectly fine.
To the people struggling and wrestling with depression: We are in this together and we will make it through. I also urge anyone struggling to please tell someone. Do not keep it all in. When you bottle up these emotions, it only becomes worse. Just remember, in between all of the crappy days of wanting to die, there are great, beautiful and fun days that make life worth living.
Also, I beg you to please note there is a huge difference between wanting to die and planning your death. If you ever realistically start planning your death, please seek help. There is no shame in seeking help—it is not embarrassing or weak, it is by far the bravest thing you could ever do. There is nothing braver than telling someone you are struggling.