As the shocking and heartbreaking news about the death of Robin Williams was heard around the world this week, my brain was spinning with how many celebrities have either committed suicide or accidentally overdosed after self-medicating their depression. The common thread that I notice in online comments goes something like this: “How could a person who seems so happy be so depressed?”
Everyone wants to believe the stereotype that those with depression are always outwardly gloomy and withdrawn. Then they can feel comforted and think, “Nope! I don’t know anybody who fits that description! All my friends and family act happily, so we’re safe.”
Well, that’s just the thing – happiness can be an act. Some of us are damn good at pretending like everything is peachy perfect and that we’re not crumbling on the inside. Take me, for example. I’ve struggled with depression, on-and-off, since middle school. I’ve learned how to hide it well, because there’s such a huge stigma attached to depression and related mental illnesses. I never wanted new friends or potential employers to think that I wasn’t worth getting to know because I sometimes struggle with depression. And that’s part of the problem. The fact that I feel embarrassed about my feelings and have to hide this big part of my life makes me feel even more ashamed and depressed. It’s a vicious cycle.
I know a surprisingly large number of people who have struggled with depression, and almost all of them feel like they have to hide this about themselves out of fear of not being accepted anymore. One time, when I’d been in a major low for a while, a former boyfriend of mine yelled at me to snap out of it and stop being pathetic. What did this experience with him teach me? It taught me that I need to constantly fake being happy so that people will like me and respect me. I need to crack jokes, smile, and be amazingly conversational all the time in order to be loved. That’s what we’ve all learned. Are these useful talents in life? Definitely. But did I feel more alone than ever because most people have no clue that I struggle emotionally? Yes, yes, yes.
We need to allow people with depression to come forward and talk about their experiences without the stigma. We need to love them instead of shunning them and making them feel even more alone. If you had good conversations with me and laughed with me before you knew I had depression, why does anything have to change now? If I was lovable before you knew I had depression, why can’t I be just as lovable after? Yes, I deal with depression, but that doesn’t define me. It doesn’t define any of us. I can still be a great girlfriend, employee, friend, daughter, and adventurer. I don’t need any sympathy – I just want to be able to talk about my own life experience without feeling ashamed. I believe that is something we all deserve.
As a final note to give you some more background about my situation, I don’t take any medications for depression and never have. Instead, I worked with a famous psychiatrist to develop a holistic lifestyle plan that helps alleviate my depression. It was through that work with her that I’ve seen how important holistic wellness is to living a life of happiness and health. My goal in life is to continue down this path and help others lead a life of wellness too. I now feel more happy and stable than I’ve ever felt before, and I’m so excited to share my passions with you!
It was honestly very difficult to write this post, because the thought of repercussions can be scary. I feel very vulnerable, but I also know I’m speaking my truth. Hopefully my voice will add to shedding light on the fact that depression is a very common issue for diverse types of people. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I know this blog post is more serious than my usual ones, but I felt it was pertinent and necessary. Lighter ones to come! 🙂
Love to all of you,