You are not alone.
Had I known much earlier that I was not the only one suffering from depression in my circle, I would have reached out much sooner to my friends, and then maybe my journey to wellness would have started, well, much earlier.
There are no “wrong people” to talk to about what you’re going through. But there are “right people” who are much better equipped to help you through your pain and confusion.
My depression started three months after my mom passed away and right after a wonderful 11-day trip to Australia. I reached out to someone – two people, actually – only five months later. (And only 11 months later got professional help.)
One meeting with them, separately, was all it took to let me know that while my grief, my pain, my misery were personal, my experience and struggles were not mine alone – and that I didn’t have to hide it and figure my way out of it (just) by myself.
I didn’t need to publicize it to the world, true. But I shouldn’t have let some people’s reactions (like “You’re doing this to yourself” or “Are your really gonna kill yourself? Because if not, stop telling people about it” or “What you’re doing is emotional blackmail” ) scare and guilt me into keeping my condition as “my dirty li’l secret”.
The more people I opened up to about my depression, the more I learned that there were individuals I actually know who are going through or have gone through the very same thing that I am. And more importantly, that they have gotten better or continue to live with it.
Do you know how much that means to a depressed person? To know that someone you personally know has gone – and lived – through it? To have someone who has experienced it firsthand assure you that “You’ll take one step forward, and two backwards along the way, but you will get to BETTER. Not soon, but eventually.” To know someone else actually tried to take their own life but lived to be grateful for failing at it?
It’s nice to hear stories from the past or read books or watch testimonial videos from the world over about depressed people overcoming their struggles. What an inspiration, right?
YET nothing beats the REAL THING – someone — a friend, a relative, a colleague, a mere acquaintance — sharing with you in person their own journey through depression, holding your hand while telling you how they’ve come face-to-face with it, and at times, even continue to live with it, and still BE HERE, FACING LIFE in front of you, without you ever knowing before today that they struggle(d) with the very same challenges that you thought all along was yours alone to take on. That you thought and believed, even maybe to this second, was a struggle that could only end in (your early, premeditated) death.
You keep it a secret as much as possible because mental health illnesses only happen to crazy people, right? You keep it a secret because you think you’re the only one in your group or family who is “not normal”. And you don’t ever want to be special that way.
But the truth is, you think you’re the only one because NOBODY ever talks about it. Not to you. Not in your community. Not to your knowledge.
Everybody keeps silent. Shhh… You don’t want people to think you’re crazy, right? Or weak. Or selfish. Or undeserving of space here. (Coz that’s what I thought, too, of suicidal people.)
Countless people keeping quiet. Keeping it a secret – out of fear, out of guilt, out of disbelief that, of all people, it could and would happen to them. Not saying a word to anybody. Not reaching out. Not letting others who are struggling with the same challenges know that, No, you are not alone. Yes, someone knows exactly what you’re dealing with. Me.
No, none of that.
We deal with it solo. So, we don’t get better faster. We don’t get help earlier. We don’t see truths sooner. And there goes giving yourself a second chance.
Please don’t keep quiet. Don’t keep it a secret. Don’t let one or two, or even a hundred people’s offensive reactions – albeit given not to hurt or slight you, but only because they do not know or understand depression, like you yourself don’t really, even now – discourage you from seeking out the “right people”.
They’re out there. Waiting to hear from you. Waiting to share their own story. Waiting to actually, finally read in another’s eyes, Yes, I know what you’re going through.
Photo by Theresa Che Cruz.