The word itself carries a distinctly negative connotation. When people picture someone who’s depressed, they often tend to romanticize it; they might envision someone staring apathetically out a window at a dreary, rainy day, perhaps all wrapped up in a blanket like a burrito to futilely try and shield themselves from the sadness they feel.
Mental illness is still extremely stigmatized in today’s society. Though we’ve definitely opened up a greater dialogue on the subject in recent years, it’s something that remains sort of a taboo topic. Depression in particular is seen as something that makes a person weaker. Sadness is seen as a sort of crutch on which they limp halfheartedly through life. And oftentimes, because of this inherent mindset that is almost a type of prejudice, they’re making the journey on their own.
This is where the real danger lies. As someone who suffers from major depression, I’ll be the first to admit that I used to think of depression in a very unrealistic way. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t want to tell anyone just how wrong everything seemed. I felt like a plate that someone had dropped on the floor; shattered into a million tiny pieces and glued haphazardly back together, but never quite the same as before it was irreparably cracked.
I think this is the word most commonly associated with the idea of mental illness. People who were depressed seemed to walk around in a permanent haze of sadness. It was a fog that prevented them from seeing just how brightly the sun truly shone or from letting their smile reach their eyes. They had demons in their head: a kind of mental monster that managed to make even the simplest of tasks appear insurmountable.
And this is how it feels sometimes. There are days where I wake up and simply wish I could disappear. That I could sort of evaporate into thin air and just cease to be, because the pain of dealing with the thoughts racing endlessly around in my mind is often overbearing. It took me several years to finally gather up the courage to tell someone I trusted about what was going on. I finally decided to tell my mother about what I was experiencing because the burden of carrying what was constantly weighing on me on my own became too much to bear by myself. So I worked up the nerve to let five words that I was absolutely terrified of fall out of my mouth and hang in the air, interspersed with hiccuping sobs, “Mom, I think I’m depressed.”
In the next few days that followed, I was officially diagnosed and started on my first ever regiment of medicine to try and combat my depression. An irrepressible feeling of what almost felt like euphoria followed me everywhere: finally, I was going to start feeling better. Finally, I was going to be fixed.
As if there was something wrong with me. I had been so taken in by society’s perception and judgment of people who suffer with depression that I saw myself as permanently flawed. As if someone had forgotten a crucial piece when putting back together the plate that I used as a metaphor earlier.
But there is nothing wrong with being depressed. There is nothing wrong in admitting you need help. There is nothing wrong with coming to the realization that what you are dealing with is more than you can carry on your own.
My depression is now firmly under control, but there are still difficult days. There are still moments where I want to curl up in a tiny ball and just forget the world for a little while. There are still times where I cancel plans or decide not to put myself out there due to this omnipresent feeling. This is only to be expected.
There is no magic cure-all, because being depressed is not a problem. It does not make you something out of commission or in need of repair. It does not make you any lesser of a person.
Because guess what?
Broken crayons still color.