So yesterday marked a whole entire year since I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. And it isn’t Mental Health Awareness Month anymore, but it’s the first day of July and to make that more auspicious (and because the conversation about mental illness should really continue), I decided I would write a post about dealing with depression.
If you’re reading this, I assume you’ve heard that song by Of Monsters and Men. When I first heard it, I thought it was a happy song. I didn’t really listen to the lyrics, I just heard the upbeat music.
It also has a fascinatingly bizarre music video.
It started gaining popularity, though, so I began to here it more and more on the radio. And as I did, I found myself listening to the words.
For the sake of the length of this post, I won’t put all the lyrics here. But there’s a particular part of the song that, once I realized what they were singing about, really hit home for me.
You’re gone, gone, gone away
I watched you disappear
All that’s left is the ghost of you.
Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart,
There’s nothing we can do
Just let me go we’ll meet again soon
Now wait, wait, wait for me
Please hang around
I’ll see you when I fall asleep
Don’t listen to a word I say
The screams all sound the same
Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.”
I’m no alone in thinking that this song is about a couple in which the woman is suffering from some sort of mental illness like depression.
Depression is really, really destructive. The day I finally decided to open up and let someone know what I was going through felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Finally, I was going to get help. Finally, I wasn’t going to feel sad anymore. Finally, there would be more to who I was than just my ghost.
This, of course, is not how it really works.
Depression leaves you feeling like you’re somehow lesser of a person. Like you’re broken. This is not at all true; however, it doesn’t take away from the fact that you feel that it’s true. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told “just try and be happy” or “smile”, as if it’s so easy to fix.
Now, it has been proven that smiling, even the most ridiculous and fake of smiles, does actually release more serotonin and dopamine in your brain, causing you to literally feel happier. But a tiny increase in an essential couple of neurotransmitters for all of a few seconds isn’t enough to solve a chronic low level of them.
I always found myself trying to convince people that I was alright. That nothing was really wrong. That even though some days I found it impossible to even get up out of bed and the idea of facing the world was downright terrifying, I was fine.
I’m fine. As much as I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been told ridiculous things that people expect will somehow magically cure my depression, I’m even less capable of counting the number of times I’ve said the words “I’m fine” and had it be the farthest thing from the truth.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression “affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S.population age 18 and older in a given year.”
This is a staggering statistic. Essentially, roughly 1 in every 15 people you come across above the age of eighteen will be suffering, often quietly, from depression. Obviously, this disorder can affect people younger than eighteen (I personally have been dealing with it for many, many years; the better part of my life, really). And yet society still doesn’t really have a dialogue about it.
Think about it. You feel like you’re coming down with a cold, so you visit the doctor. They advise you to take some medicine. You buy the medicine, use it, and feel better. No one looks at you like you’re strange. No one tells you to just “grin and bear it”.
Now obviously a cold and depression are very, very, different, for numerous other reasons besides that one is a physical illness and the latter is a mental illness. But this is the difference that needs the most attention paid to it, because it is the driving force behind the stigma against mental illness that unfortunately still exists in today’s society.
Let’s go back to the song and focus in on some of the lyrics, because I feel it paints a really poignant image of what it is like to suffer from a mental illness.
“You’re gone, gone, gone away
I watched you disappear
All that’s left is the ghost of you.”
Depression sucks the very life right out of you. It makes you feel, quite literally, like a ghost of yourself. You’re a walking shadow.
Don’t listen to a word I say
The screams all sound the same.”
When someone has depression, like I mentioned earlier, there’s an inclination to keep silent about it. Because of the image society has in its head of someone who is dealing with it (see cliched movie scene involving sitting by a window wrapped up in a blanket like a burrito, staring at the rain pouring down with a distinctly vacant and sad expression), people are afraid to let someone else know about what they’re enduring all on their own.
This needs to stop. There needs to be a greater conversation about depression and mental illness on the whole. We shouldn’t need a month dedicated to extra awareness of it. It makes so many lives miserable, oftentimes to the point where the decision is made to take one’s life. This is the saddening reality that so many people face every day.
If you are dealing with depression, or suspect you might be, please let someone know. You are not supposed to fight this battle alone. You deserve all the support and love in the world. And perhaps most importantly, you are not broken. You don’t need fixing. You just need a little extra care.
Please, please, take advantage of the hands stretched out to help you. And never forget how amazing and unique you are. ❤