I have been procrastinating on writing this post. I know I need to tell this story, but sometimes it still feels too raw and uncomfortable to talk about. I am afraid people will judge me for this experience. However, I recently found out that October 11th is National Depression Screening Day. Here in Ann Arbor, this means that there are a few locations around the city where you can receive a free, anonymous consultation with a health care professional to check for depression. I took that as a sign that it was time to write. This cause is important to me because I recently had a bout with depression and before that, I never thought it would impact me. This post is to clear up some misconceptions about depression by telling my story.
First off, I got voted "most happy" in my school's senior mock elections. I was super involved, friendly, and outgoing. I had a great home life and I was supported by my loving family. This does not fit the description of someone who is vulnerable to becoming depressed. I thought it was for people with rough lives and bad situations. I was completely wrong. My last week of summer before my senior year I was ecstatic to begin school. I had waited three long years to be a senior. I could not wait for fun classes, homecoming, time with friends, etc.
A few weeks into the year I became overwhelmed about college and my future. I had no clue what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I was paranoid about not being smart enough for a few of my classes. I fell into a bad depression. It was a sick cycle. I would feel extremely sad and then I would feel guilty about being sad. I thought, "I have an amazing life, I have no substantial problems, who am I to feel this way? Others in horrible situations are still content. I must be ungrateful." The guilt I made myself feel made me become more depressed. I only told a few people about it. When they would ask, "What happened? Why are you depressed?" I did not really have a good answer. I did not understand why this was happening. All my other senior friends dealt with hard classes and college decisions seemingly well.
What is it like to feel depressed? The worst feeling I have ever had. I questioned my intelligence, I felt ugly, overweight, unwanted, socially awkward, I couldn't keep up conversations. I lost my shine and my bright personality. I felt like a source of stress for my parents because they were so worried about me. I dreaded Thursdays because that was when I had to lead the meetings for my anti-bullying club, EFA. I was scared to drive because I often zoned out and found myself miles away from where I stopped paying attention. I could not trust my own mind. "Did I perceive that wrong, did I over-think this, am I imagining that?" Every day tasks seemed daunting. I wanted so badly to just snap out of it. Everyday I woke up hoping it was gone. I prayed every night asking God to help me shake it off. I wanted to know the solution. The weekends were the worst. I stayed in the house a lot and I could feel the weight of my parents concern and their watchful eyes on me. They suggested going to the doctor for help, but I was afraid that medication would make me stray farther from my identity. Plus, the depression came so fast, could I even label it depression yet?
This lasted for about three months. I did not just magically wake up one day and it was gone. I became myself again, pieces at a time. It took lots of encouraging words from loved ones, acknowledging my success in school, finding a direction with my future, and I finally stopped marginalizing my problems. I was lucky. For some people, things like that are not enough to pull you out of it. I was very scared that the transition from high school to college would bring it back. I am SO grateful that is not the case. I am extremely happy here. Every now and then, something will remind me of those months and I will cringe. I wanted to share this story of mine because I know that I am not alone in experiencing this. There are probably others who kept their depression hidden by trying to act happy at school or work like I did. If you think you might be depressed, I encourage you to tell someone you love/trust. I could never have gotten through that experience without all the support I had.