With the “Let’s Talk” campaign conducted by Bell happening today, I’ve seen a ton of articles floating around the news about mental illness. Most are informative, some even inspiring, and others are just hoping you’ll make it to the end of the article. After reading these, I do that thing that one should never do……I scroll down to the comment section. What am I hoping for exactly? Perhaps that it will be filled with people who have battled their own illnesses, kindly sharing their stories in support of one another.
Of course this is hardly the case.
It takes about 30 seconds of scrolling through these comments to realize that warm, fuzzy feeling I was hoping for won’t be found anywhere within a 10 mile radius. In one particular article about a woman overcoming her struggle with depression, the comments I saw the most included “that’s not a real thing” and “just suck it up.” My personal favourite by far was, “can’t she just stop being sad?”
I’ll make sure to send a mass media message to let everyone know they can just “cut it out.”
Because of the comments, I thought I would share my own story. It’s not one that I wished for, but it’s taught me quite a lot.
Way back in 2009, I was going to school, working, and had a happy social life. I’d see my friends on the weekends, study during the week, and enjoyed my part-time position that I had found. Everything seemed great, except when it wasn’t.
Little by little, I started to feel…..sad. At first it would be 5 minutes of crying, seemingly about nothing, and then I would just feel down. As the weeks went on, the crying increased, with the added frustration of not knowing why this was happening. I kept telling myself I had a great life, that there was no reason to be feeling this way. But instead of helping, it added an element of shame. How dare I feel and respond this way when I had so much? There were people out there with real problems, and I certainly didn’t meet the criteria that was required to be feeling this much self-pity.
The worst part of all of it was the hopelessness. I forgot what happy felt like. Sure, I could muster a smile, but the feeling of connecting with another human being was gone. I felt like I was a ghost, walking through town and seeing everyone go on with their lives, while I was stuck in this dimension that I couldn’t comprehend. The crying increased, and soon I would barely make it home before heavy sobs of tears made their way from my eyes.
Nothing mattered anymore. School, family, friends, work. I was in this pit of despair, with the realization that nothing I did could get me out of it. I went from a bubbly, happy twenty-something woman to a shell of my former self, and I couldn’t understand why.
One particularly bad night, when the tears wouldn’t stop, I remember looking out my bedroom window at the snow falling against the pink sky. I was done at that point. I had had enough, and I felt that there was nothing more I could give. I didn’t want to go another day feeling this way, and I certainly couldn’t imagine a lifetime of it. I cried and cried, and as I looked out the window, I said out loud “if I can make it through this night, I’ll be ok. If I can just get through the next 6 hours and see morning, it’ll be ok.”
The sun was shining when I opened my eyes. I glanced in the mirror and saw how red and swollen my face was, as I recounted what I had said the night before. For the first time in months, I felt a twinge of hope. I picked up my phone, and I asked for help.
Depression is tricky. It’s not easily understood until you experience it yourself, and even then everyone is unique in how it affects them. I’ll admit, before I went through that period, I was skeptical of how much it could really interfere with someone’s life. Now I know the incredible impact it can have, and just how powerful it is. It can take everything from you.
When someone says they’re going through it, or you see a story about it, please don’t judge them. It’s all too easy to jump to the conclusion that they’re not trying hard enough, or that they haven’t done everything they can to “fix it.” But I promise you, as someone that never thought it would happen to them, it’s not that simple. No one would wish to feel that way, and the added feeling of shame, combined with the judgement of people that don’t understand, has the potential to create deeper despair.
I assure you, it’s a real thing. The more we remove the stigma surrounding it, the more people will look for help when they need it.