I remembered when I was 17 I saw these posters at a local cinema with a lady in her 40s, palm in her face and with tears streaming down her eyes. The caption said something like “Your loved ones might be experiencing depression and you don’t know it” and beneath it was a help line phone number. I thought to myself that I would look out for people around me and get help when needed. Little did I know I was experiencing depression myself without even realizing what it was – all I can remember is that I refused to go out or participate in any social events for almost a year but I gave myself some excuses like “I have work to do” or “I don’t really know the people who are going to that party anyway”. What I expected and what happened in reality were total different things, I was in denial stage, I tried to protect myself from having any mental illness label. Recently a friend told me unless you know exactly what you are suffering from you can’t really find a way to cure it; or in my case, I refused to get better because I didn’t want to think I was anything worse.
Growing up in a traditional family with high expectations, I always feel the need to perfect myself, to make my parents proud, to be better. Since a young age I’ve never felt good enough, no matter what I do. Living with my elder sister was not easy because we are different people – she was short-tempered, loud and active and I was more like water that flows wherever it’s supposed to go. But no matter how calm I tried to be, when everything piled up I broke down and it was so hard to get up again. Some people let everything out and then go on with their lives but I dwell on things until it sinks into the deepest part of my brain. Those words they said were like rocks inside my chest and I didn’t know how to take them out. I cried every night, I locked myself in my room without eating or sleeping much; and obviously after a few months my sister noticed those strange behaviours and confronted me. I said I was okay, I was just tired mostly and that she didn’t have to worry. I sometimes escaped the house because she would come into my room and ask if I was doing fine every 20 minutes. I started wandering around town, staying at a bookshop for hours until it got dark and I went home. She thought I was at the library doing work. I wasn’t. I guess pretending I was doing okay somehow made me feel better about myself because I was convinced I was the person they expected me to be. But I was wrong; I should have opened up to her and faced my problems instead of running away from it.
When I was 19, I moved out and lived by myself for the first time. I thought I could do whatever I wanted but I just slept through the day and stayed awake at the night. I literally didn’t talk to anyone, even my housemate. She must have thought I was a ghost. I started to gain new friends from university and I got invited to a few parties. It was tough being at university but I thought this was a chance to be a new me and meet other people. I got a job at a local newsagent and having control over my finances was one of the things that made me proud of myself. But then, having too much money on my hand, I started buying unnecessary expensive items whenever I felt empty (which was all the time), I thought if I looked good I would feel better about myself. I picked up unhealthy habits; I went out every night, filled my body with intoxicating liquid and my lungs with nicotine. These new friends thought I was cool, and so I did too, at least for a while. But it was me still running away from my depression, I literally put all the bad things inside a box and promised myself to never open it. But in reality, there was no box and even if there was, it was made of glass, so fragile, so easy to break. I was feeling even worse going home after a night out with an empty stomach and alcohol in my bloodstream. I remembered in the middle of the dance floor with music so loud I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts, I stood in the crowd full of people and started feeling those rocks inside my body; they got so heavy after all these years of hiding and running. And that’s when I knew I needed to do something. I needed to change.
Here I am in my 20s, I have finally accepted depression to be a part of me but I am trying every day to fight, to get better. I know for a fact that it’s okay to admit to people that I wasn’t perfect, that I was broken once but I am still here today, that I somehow survived through all those terrible times, and that I should be proud of myself. My expectation wasn’t as high any more, I don’t call myself a failure on days I didn’t get much work done or that I cancelled on a fancy party invite. I sometimes still feel bad for lying in bed all day, but I know it was my expectation and not from my parents or anyone else. I started to take care of my body, I wasn’t afraid to admit to people that I have depression and that sometimes I needed time for myself and instead of all those curious questions, my friends would say “I understand”. Because they do, because they don’t judge me or my depression in a way I expected them to, they don’t think I was anything lower or less beautiful because of this mental disorder, in fact, surprisingly, many have opened up to me that they too suffer from depression. It is a sense of belonging, of empathy, of understanding more than just a pair of sorry eyes and judgments. I know it is scary to seek help or confess to people, but they would stay with you and help you realize it is not the worst thing anyone can be, it’s a state of mind and you are still as beautiful in their eyes as you were. And if f they don’t, you are better with them out of your life.
So my advice is, don’t be afraid to let people in, don’t be scared fill yourself with love and encouragement from within and from others. Because you deserve it, you earn it from being the awesome person that you are. After all, expectations and reality are not so different now that you are comfortable yourself and others too.