When I was in high school, by all intents and purposes, I was a perfectionist. I would spend endless hours studying in order to get straight A’s and I participated in more extracurriculars than most teenagers could handle. I felt the need to refine every aspect of my being to glimmering flawlessness. I thought that by doing this, I could control what life had in store for me in the future. I thought I had life all figured out.
But life threw me a curveball. At the beginning of the middle school I spent countless nights crying in my room over nothing. I felt numb and simply went through the motions of everyday life: I was a shell of a human being. Every so often I asked my mom if crying for no reason was normal. She attributed it to teenage hormones, as many mothers would have. After all, puberty causes an array of hormonal changes.
I left out the vital information about what was making me cry— I was constantly dwelling on death and exhausted from fighting the voices in my head that were telling me that no one would care if I was gone. I thought it would go away over time, that it was something I would grow out of. Too often I negated thoughts of getting help by convincing myself that all the sadness, the disinterest and the hopelessness was just a “weird teenager emotion thing.” I put off seeking treatment until it got to be too much and I completely broke down. It was then that I was taken to a psychiatrist and diagnosed with depression.
For the longest time, I refused to come to terms with the fact that I had a mental illness. It wasn’t something I could control. It wasn’t something that I could simply make go away. I felt as if it was a blemish on my image: the equivalent of an F.
How could I fail to do something that is supposed to be so natural?
How is it possible that my body couldn’t do something as simple as experience happiness?
I have never faced great tragedy nor have I experienced significant hardship. What reason did I have to be depressed?
My thoughts circled around in such a manner until I got a point where my daily thoughts surrounded depression in a sick and twisted obsession. From my perspective, my mental illness was my new identity.
My salvation from this detrimental attitude came in the form of talk therapy. My therapist, a lovely elderly woman by the name of Ruth, assured me that while depression was debilitating, it was possible to manage. She helped me craft my pessimistic views of my life into a more positive outlook. Sure, I was dealing with something that was hard, but it brought out my strength and resilience as an individual. I had people who loved me and were willing to help me, despite all that I was going through. I had more redeeming qualities than I would give myself credit for. It became clear to me that it was entirely possible to live a satisfying and most importantly, happy life, even with a depression diagnosis.
Mental illnesses are devastating and draining. They warp your mind in a way that alters the very way you perceive reality. But you are not your mental illness, and you have the ability to beat any adversity that they may bring. Asking for help is extremely scary. It’s terrifying. But it is the best thing that you can do for yourself. By seeking help, you finally address the fact that there is something that needs to be fixed, which is the first and most important step to recovery. Give yourself time, and give yourself patience. You’ll get through it.
The Lifeline is for anyone struggling with depression or hopelessness. You can call 1-800-273-TALK or chat with a crisis counselor online.