All this talk about Robin Williams’ recent death has brought back some pretty sad memories for me. I don’t know if it’s true that this amazing comedian was suffering from depression, and if that’s the cause of his apparent suicide. I do know that depression is one of the most awful things that a person can feel. I know because I’ve been there.
I remember, back in December of 2007, I discovered my father had been cheating on my mother for some time….that was the catalyst for my first battle with this debilitating mental illness. I was 18 years old.
You may think that it wasn’t such a big deal, people cheat; they always have and they always will, we are human after all and we all make mistakes. But for me, it was a very disheartening thing to learn. I idolized my father, I was even studying to become a doctor to please him (this I didn’t figure out until later, though). I just felt like the foundation I had built my beliefs upon was tumbling down, cracking and disintegrating as I helplessly watched it happen. I was desperate. I couldn’t talk to my friends; every time I broached the subject, they quickly changed it after some mumbled words. They were clearly uncomfortable and didn’t know how to help me. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my mother about what I had learned; it didn’t feel right to get in the middle and ruin her perceived happiness in the process. I was going suffer in silence.
That was the absolute worst thing I could have done. I’ve always been one to handle my own problems, always too proud to ask for help from those around me, but this type of thing isn’t something you can just handle on your own; you need a support system, if not a therapist, a friend, or even a stranger that has been there can provide some perspective and make life worth living for a little longer.
The whole of 2008 was one of the worst years of my life, as I went through the motions, not really living. One of the more objectionable parts of depression is the stigma attached to it. Most people who don’t understand it will claim you’re going through a phase, your friends will get frustrated with you because you won’t go out with them and suddenly you’ve become the problem. I started ignoring calls and texts from my friends, I just didn’t want to go through every explanation over and over again: “no, I don’t want to go out, I’m not feeling well”, “I don’t want to do anything”, “I just want to stay in” and others of the like.
So, I got really good at pretending. Pretending everything was fine, plastering a smile on my face. I used humor as a front, became the funny one in class, joking around and generally portraying myself as a happy person when the reality was the complete opposite of that. That mask I presented to the world became another thing I donned on in my everyday routine, like clothes and brushing my teeth before going out.
That’s another thing, doing the simplest of things like getting up in the morning became increasingly difficult, I just had a hard time finding reasons for going on. I cried myself to sleep most nights, and what little sleep I got was not enough to keep me going. Making myself get out of the house was a chore, the outside world was too bright, and it was tiresome to even think about putting on my “happy” mask to fake my way through the day and avoid questions. I even contemplated suicide on multiple occasions.
Depression is like a black cloud that envelops you, it slowly creeps over you without your notice, and when you do notice it it’s too late. It already has its hooks in you and won’t let go easily. This cover of darkness swallows you up, obliterating every positive thought in your mind, leaving you to think yourself worthless, a burden to your loved ones, and erasing your purpose for living. So much so, that in those lowest moments you’ll think you’re better off dead.
The only thing that helped me dig myself out of that pit of despair was the help of a dear friend of mine. She’ll remain anonymous here, but she knows who she is, and I’ll be forever grateful for her unbreakable loyalty and endless companionship. What she did was simple, she didn’t ask me what she could do to make me feel better, because I didn’t know what that could possibly be, she just showed up at my house unannounced every chance she got, and sat with me. Sometimes we would watch movies, or TV series, other times we’d listen to music or talk. But the point isn’t what we did or didn’t do; it was that she was there, being a companion, lending a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear, without judgment, without demanding anything.
With time, and her unwavering friendship, little by little the shroud of depression slowly peeled itself off my person. I found myself actually smiling and laughing and overall enjoying life a bit more everyday. Until one day, it was just gone, as stealthily as it came, depression had departed and I was so very grateful.
Yes, 2008 was one of the worst years of my life, but I wouldn’t take it back even if I could. Having come through the other side of depression has made me into a stronger person and has helped mold who I am today. I am overall happy with the life I’ve led so far, and though I’ve been sad and hurt, I’ve also laughed until my cheeks ached and enjoyed the priceless gift of friendship. I know now that I have a propensity towards depression, it’s genetic and there’s no cure for it, except for being aware of the triggers and early symptoms that could mean it’s creeping back into my life. I’ve learned I have to reach out and ask for help, I have to tell my loved ones that I’m feeling sad or lonely and they won’t hesitate to give me a hand. I am very lucky to have such people in my life.
If you’re suffering through depression, don’t forget there’s always someone out there who can help you. Don’t resort to ending your life, because even if at that time it doesn’t feel worth living, I can assure you that feeling will pass, with the right people by your side. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be ashamed of feeling depressed, it’s an illness and like with many others, it’s not your fault that this is happening to you. Reach out, whether it is to a friend, a relative or a complete stranger on the internet, you can always find someone willing to listen and offer you a little solace. Don’t give up, keep fighting, it’ll be worth it in the end.