Hey everyone! Today I wanted to share something personal and something that impacts so many other people- depression. Mental health awareness is so important for the health of our society and yet it still has a strange stigma around it. I thought my own experience with this was something that I could talk about to help remove the stigma one brick at a time.
Sharing my Struggle with Depression
So one thing you have to keep in mind while you’re reading this is that I’m not writing this to receive comments affirming how “brave” I am or on the contrary, that this blog post is just looking for attention. I’m writing it because it’s healthy to talk about mental health and we simply should.
Like every teenager, I had my bouts of depression (thank you changing hormones!) However, sometimes it wasn’t just crazy teenage hormones. Often enough, it was actual, real sadness. I certainly didn’t have anything to be particularly sad about, just typical teenage girl stuff. Once I got into college, anxiety kicked in and seemed to replace the depression for a while until I graduated. Right about this time, anxiety started to feed my depression and vice versa. Anxiety and depression are very closely related and tend to fuel each other.
Once I recognized how bad I was feeling and that it was starting to impact my habits, I knew I needed someone to guide me through it. This was when I began to realize the serious stigma around mental health issues. I had seen a psychologist when I was younger who helped me work through an irrational fear of ghosts (not Scooby-Doo kind of ghosts, actual ghosts.) But now I needed someone to work through something else that haunted me- depression.
Knowing that getting professional “help” was frowned upon or met with judgement, I kept this to myself, my family, and select friends. When anxiety medication was recommended by my doctor, I kept that piece of information to just my family because medication is met with even more judgement.
Let’s Ditch the Mental Health Judgment
Throughout my experience of trying to improve my mental health and doing everything I should to feel better, people still judge. What I don’t understand is why they judge. Depression doesn’t happen because I didn’t “decide” to be happy. Depression occurs due to a chemical imbalance in my brain. It isn’t because I’m crazy or because I just chose to be this way and to suggest such a thing is absurd.
I often wonder if maybe people wouldn’t snap if we recognized the signs of poor mental health and encouraged people to seek help. Or if people who need a clean bill of both physical and mental health to do their jobs (for example pilots) were given time to routinely talk with mental health professionals instead of being let go for even suggested that they’re feeling anxiety. I’m certainly no expert in this area but removing the stigma mental health issues have attached to them would certainly improve the lives of those impacted, including myself.
Since I’d love to see mental health’s negative connotations be replaced by positive ones, I’ve decided to be completely honest about it with friends, family, coworkers, and even my boss. I keep it light hearted, explaining that “hey, everyone needs to see one because we all feel overwhelmed from time to time.” People seem to get that.
If I’m speaking with someone who think depression or anxiety is “all in your head,” I explain my own feelings of depression and it makes it hard for them to deny my feelings. It plants that small seed of doubt in their mind and opens them up to the idea that just because they haven’t experienced depression doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
How You Can Help
To recap, depression is real and it makes it far worse when other people judge or doubt. What you can do is encourage friends and others around you to talk with a doctor about their depression or other mental health problems. You can also be open about your own struggles. Finally, you can share this post with friends or someone you know who might be struggle with depression to let them know you understand and care. It will mean more than you know!