I listened to a lot of music when I had depression, and played a lot of word games on my phone. I had to charge it pretty often those days.
It was a coping mechanism. Nothing beat distraction — the sheer power of my mind pushing everything down so all that remained was the dizzying vortex of song lyrics and crossword clues — until my eyes closed into oblivion. I slept pretty often those days. Those were the better days, with the better coping mechanisms.
There were worse days too. People disappointed me over and over again. I thought it was my fault. No one ever understood that, and so even those who tried were unable to help me. I was wrong though: it was not my fault at all.
The Effects of Depression
I would go outside a lot. I wanted to be away from home, and I wanted to be alone, so I wandered between the boats in the harbor. Sometimes my thoughts were short bursts, and other times they were endless rambles. I looked into a sky that shone purple with light pollution. I looked into water that grew darker the longer I stared.
The thoughts were the worst. They accumulated until I could not hold them back, and then they burst through the dam and flooded my mind. In those moments, it was a struggle to breathe. Literally, because I was having panic attacks, and figuratively, because I was drowning in my own head.
The gist of it is simple. This was my clinical depression.
What’s WRONG With Me?
It started when I was in tenth grade. I was sitting alone during a free period, and I just broke down. Like there was no immediate cause; there was no immediate effect; I did not become depressed right away. But the feelings stayed with me even as I dried my tears, and they did not leave for a long time. Weeks went by and my mood did not improve, and so I got gradually worse. As a 15-year-old raised to be everyone else’s image of perfection, I thought I was doing something wrong. Where had I erred, that this was happening to me?
In hindsight, I know it had nothing to do with me. In my diseased mind, however, logic was warped, and all the fingers pointed blame at me. I was inherently bad. It became a vicious cycle: the guilt and low self-esteem feeding off the depression and vice versa. That was when the thoughts came, and the urges and the pain and the panic. I could not break out of it alone, and no one offered the help I was to afraid to ask for.
After a particularly bad night, a good friend intervened. My mother, despite not wanting to believe her daughter had depression, brought me to a psychologist specialized in Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (DBT). This was the start of the turnaround. I finally felt as if someone understood me, and did not try to refute my feelings. DBT focuses on trying to find a peaceful middle path between contradicting thoughts and feelings. Over many months, I learned different mental skills, and dutifully practiced them. These eventually became my new coping tools, and helped me to stay calm and focused.
My Path to Recovery
What really sealed my recovery was the decision I made a year later, in the middle of eleventh grade, to switch schools. In doing so, I left one school and environment for another. Removing myself from the culture that so pressured me had a huge impact on my life. With the right people around me, I gained a confidence and character that I had never imagined possible.
Today, a year after I switched schools, I am typing up my story for the first time. Actually, it is the first time I even think about it. And it is not because I suddenly feel like sharing now.
For over a year, I have been repressing my memories. Not only because they are painful, but also because they are embarrassing. After all this time, I am still ashamed. It took a friend’s tragedy for me to realize that this type of thinking is no different than the type of thinking I did when I had depression. Suppression and guilt are patterns of thought eerily familiar to those I am trying to forget, and I need to get rid of them to heal completely.
I also realized that this type of thinking is exactly what prevents so many people from getting the help they need. We cannot be embarrassed by mental illness. We need to let everyone know that it is real, and that it is no more shameful than a physical illness. As a society, we simply cannot afford to pretend it does not exist, or to be ashamed by it. The leading cause of suicide is untreated depression. Too many people are getting hurt by the taboo we created as a society. We cannot let this go on.
Why I Break The Silence
I am breaking my silence today. For myself and for my future, for everyone who has ever had an experience similar to mine, and for everyone out there who needs my words. Let us end this stigma together.