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I suffered from depression since my early teen years. For years, I’ve hidden it because of the shame so often associated with this misunderstood disease. Over the past few years, as I’ve slowly become more transparent about my depression, I’ve done my best to educate those who know me about depression and just exactly what it means.
I’ve learned that if you don’t also suffer from some sort of mental disease, you will never truly understand — and that’s okay. I wish I didn’t understand. We need to continue to educate people on this disease and erase the stigma that so often comes with depression, anxiety, or any other mental disease.
For those of you who, like me, suffer from depression, here’s my short and sweet love letter to you:
You are not weak. You are not selfish. It is not something you choose. And often times, it takes counseling and even medication for you to come out of the deep, dark fog that it causes. You can fight it, and you can win. It’s not easy, but it can be done. You just have to make the choice not to let it overtake you. Give in just a little and it will. Give yourself permission to have bad days, but then force yourself to get up out of bed and face life. YOU CAN DO THIS.
For those of you who don’t suffer from a mental illness, I’m so glad. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But, take a second to imagine these scenarios. A 50-pound blanket being placed over your body but still being expected to lead a fully-functioning life. A dark fog following you wherever you go. Feeling trapped inside your own body with tape over your mouth, not allowing you to tell anyone how you actually feel. Imagining that people are judging you everywhere you go because you have some sort of “I’m weak” or “I’m not good enough” tattoo on your forehead.
What You Can Do
So I ask, why would anyone actually choose to feel this way? Anyone who watches the news will hopefully admit that we have a real mental health crisis on our hands. I’m not going to get into the politics and issues with our healthcare system that are associated with the crisis, but what I am going to do is:
- Encourage those who are suffering to ask for help. You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, but find someone in your family or circle of friends that you can talk to. If not, find help through a counselor or therapist or even online support groups.
- Urge those people who don’t suffer from or even understand depression to educate themselves on the disease. Even more important, show grace to those of us who do. In most cases, we’re trying our best. But even the simplest tasks like getting out of bed can be a challenge when you are being sucked in by the monster that depression truly is.
The Questions of Suicide
And now, onto an even more controversial subject: suicide.
- Is suicide a selfish choice? I honestly don’t know what I believe. On the outside, I can see why people would think so. It’s the “easy way out” in many people’s opinions. But oftentimes for people with depression, it can feel like the only way out. Depression clouds people’s judgment. Not because they are selfish but because it’s all encompassing.
- Are those who commit suicide intentionally trying to harm their friends and family? I truly don’t think so. I believe they just don’t have any other way to cope. You may disagree, and that’s your right. But, I would ask one favor. Please also admit you don’t understand that person’s particular situation. No one knows what she would do in any particular instance until she is actually faced with it.
- These days, we are all too quick to judge. It’s SO easy to post something ugly on social media or even incite fights online with friends and family over issues we don’t truly understand.
Grace upon grace is what this world needs right now. That is my request to all of you.