We first met when I was 13.
The moment I met you, I was afraid. I didn’t know a thing about who you were yet, and what a lasting effect you would have on me, but already I knew that you were going to change my life.
Before I met you, I was a kid full of life. I was a kid full of light, and full of smiles. I had a genuine love for life and excitement for every day ahead. The biggest worry I dealt with was if my parents would let me go to my friend’s house to play after school.
When you, an uninvited stranger, stepped into my life that all changed. Suddenly I didn’t want to go to my friend’s house anymore. All I wanted to do was sleep; I would come home from school and go straight to my bed. During the day, I walked around like a zombie. I bounced around from numb to extreme anguish every day. My parents noticed there was something wrong, but I shut them out because I didn’t know how to talk to them about it. I confided a little in some of my friends, but for the most part I felt terribly alone in a sadness that I could find no true cause for.
I had been blessed with a wonderful life. I was born into a wonderful and loving family, I lived in a big beautiful home surrounded by forest for me to play in, I had the greatest friends who I laughed with until we snorted milk out of our noses, I went to a good school and we were comfortable with money. I had everything I needed and more. And yet, you had managed to come into my life and turn everything to sadness even while I still had all these wonderful things around me. Of all of it, this was the most frustrating part about you: that I could see no explanation for you.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned your name: Depression.
Since the beginning of my illness, I’ve had many ups and downs. There have been some really great moments in my life: like when I realized my best friend was the love of my life, when we moved to Toronto together to pursue our dreams, when we adopted our dog Nina, and many more great days in between. But there have also been some really terrible days. At my lowest point, the depression made me see so dark that I tried to take my own life. The illness convinced me that everyone would be better off without me, that the future held nothing good for me, and that it would never get better. My friends and family saved me and after spending some time in the hospital, I began to work on getting healthy. I am still working on that today.
Through the years my depression has followed me–even on my happiest days when I was surrounded by everything that should have brought me eternal joy.
That’s the thing with depression–it follows no rules. It discriminates against no one; it takes who it wants, when it wants. It doesn’t care how successful you are, how happy you have been feeling or how many goals you have for your life. It is like a virus that comes without being called and takes everything. It is a darkness that seeps into your brain and turns every positive thing you had into a negative. It feeds you with lies that everything is hopeless until you start to truly believe it.
Depression is not something that can be entirely cured–there are many ways to reduce it to a level that can still allow me to live a good life, but I have had to come to terms that it will be with me for my entire life. That’s not to say that I won’t still have some great moments in my life, but it just means that I need to be prepared for the harder moments when my illness takes over again and learn how to fight it.
So, now that you know my story, I want to tell you why I’ve decided to share it.
Putting this story out there for everyone to see is one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. It puts me in a spot that is more vulnerable than I have ever been. For years I’ve hid this illness, only letting those closest to me know, and perfected my mask of the happy girl. Now I am taking the mask off and showing the public my inner demons for the very first time.
But as terrifying as it is, I’m doing it because I think that it’s important. As I started to open up to more people about my illness, I found that they started opening up to me. These were people that I always envied for seeming so stable and put-together, while in reality, they were fighting internal battles just like me.
For years, the stigma around mental health has stopped people from being open about their illness and made them feel ashamed. I myself am not immune to that. For as long as I have had it, I have felt the need to hide it because I believed people would see me as a lesser and weaker person for my illness. This is something I’m still working on, but I realize now that the only way to end this stigma is to start talking about it.
So that’s why I’m adding a mental health section to my blog. My goal is to normalize speaking about mental illness the same way we would speak openly about any other physical sickness we have. With time, I hope people will stop feeling ashamed of their illness and realize how real it is and how strong we all are for fighting it every day. A person with any other sort of illness will celebrate their wins against the disease, but those of us with mental illness never get to celebrate because it’s all happening in our heads and no one sees it. And I think it’s so important that we celebrate.
I hope you will follow along on this new journey as I post about my experiences, tools I have learned, and more. If I can help even one person by doing this, then it will all be worth it.