The other day I had glitter all over me. Someone told me they thought the glitter “fit my personality.” Naturally I laughed, and smiled and said thank you. At the time I was thinking wow that’s a pretty awesome compliment to get. The day after, that same person asked me if I was always happy and then went on to say I was one of the most enthusiastic people she had ever met. Again, I laughed and smiled and said thank you. But the more I stopped to think about both things she said, the more I thought to myself she was wrong. It’s funny though, listening to people who know you, but don’t actually know you, describe you. And I guess that’s what most people see, my outward personality. If you asked a friend, or a family member or really anyone I know, to describe me, they would agree with her. Someone who is always filled with enthusiasm, overwhelming energy, a hard working athlete, someone who consistently has a smile on their face, and frequently making other people laugh. If you asked me to describe me, I would say some of the same things, and I wouldn’t be lying, but I wouldn’t be telling you the full truth. The truth is, my outward personality feels like an illusion to me. The inward version of me, is someone completely different than that.
I hate to admit it, say it out loud, or quite frankly write it down, but I’ve come to discover that I’m depressed. For people who have never experienced depression, you might be confused to what exactly that means. There’s a huge misconception that all people with depression are people who can’t get out of bed, don’t talk to anyone, look sad all the time, etc. And that depression happens when something goes wrong in your life, or you experience some sort of catastrophic event that you can’t overcome. But that’s wrong. While one of these events could absolutely lead to eventual depression, these people are currently experiencing sadness, a natural emotion in life. Depression, isn’t sadness you feel when things in your life go wrong, it’s sadness you have when everything in your life seems to be going right.
The biggest problem with depression is that everyone shies away from it. Why is it that we are the first to admit we have the flu, or a broken arm, or torn lateral meniscus, but are the last to admit we suffer from depression? It seems to be something no one ever wants to talk about, or admit. Why is that? Why is it that hiring a coach for a sport such as lacrosse the norm, but any thought of hiring a “coach” (a therapist) for life is so overlooked? Why is an illness that kills someone almost every 30 seconds, not talked about? The second I tore my ACL, I didn’t hesitate to tell anyone. My phone blew up with texts, calls, emails, from numerous people sending their thoughts and positive spirits my way. But, the second I build enough courage up to tell someone I’m depressed, it just never comes out. I convince myself it’s not a big deal, because that’s the type of stigma depression gives off. So what you’re sad? Everyone is sad in their life. People push it away, again and again, as if, there is almost no problem at all.
But there’s no problem, until it’s your problem. Until you feel the effects of depression first hand from someone you know. I thought I knew I would be able to tell when someone is depressed, when they aren’t acting themselves, when they stop showing up to class, when they stop hanging out with their friends. But I came to realize there are multiple types of depression such as clinical depression and walking depression. Walking depression, is one of the hardest to diagnose. The one that is so hard to notice or pick up on. It’s essentially when someone is depressed on the inside, but seem perfectly fine on the outside. While looking at me on the surface, you’d see the girl who is playing on a Division 1 lacrosse team, has many friends, is consistently at every party, who has a supportive family and who’s always radiating with laughter. So you wouldn’t assume I was depressed, that I wasn’t consistently contemplating why I was living this life. But that is the outward version of me, my outward projected self. The inward self feels like something isn’t right. Like something is off. I think this is commonly how people feel when they’re depressed. Slowly, the most important things in your life start to slip. First school, then friends, then connections, and eventually your personality. While I know classes like Organic Chemistry and Physics aren’t the easiest classes in the world, I’m not focused like I use to be. I’m not applying myself. I’m smart, I know I am, but any teacher I have would say otherwise. You lose your focus, your ability to stay on track with any sort of school work, your ability to study. Suddenly you realize you’re behind in what feels like everything, and you don’t know how to catch up.
This is never the person I’ve been or want to be. I have always been the over achiever, the annoying teachers pet, the kid who does every assignment early, the first kid at practice and the last to leave, the kid that gets an A on all of the hard tests. I have never given up, on probably anything in my life, and I feel like I am right now. I’m not being myself, in school, or in life. For example, I rarely have an interest in making new friends, or new connections. And that has ALWAYS been my thing. I’m always the kid who comes crashing into your life with an enormous smile and over the top enthusiasm, and while I am this person around my teammates, coaches and family, I’m not when I don’t need to be. Sadly, I have it in my head that I can fake it, till I make it. Things just don’t matter to me anymore. Which is one of the worst parts, losing interest in the most important things to you. You begin to feel like you’re living a life that doesn’t matter. That you’re not doing any good, or being productive. And you begin to look at yourself in three perspectives. How you view yourself. How others view you. How the world views you. And the third one is where I feel like there’s something that gets lost. You feel like you’re not apart of anything bigger than yourself. That you’re not contributing to “the world.” So what’s the point right?
It’s funny because almost everyone I know, would never assume any of these things about me. I think that for a long time, I have felt as though I’m living two different lives. Where one of them is always scared to meet the other. The happy, athletic, popular kid, fears, the sad, overwhelmed, unmotivated kid. And the more I thought about this, the more I realized I was also fearing the opinion of others. And that’s why both sides are constantly hidden from each other. And why people never want to admit this depression. Not only do they fear themselves, but they fear the idea of people knowing, of people judging. Of their best friend not believing them, of their dad telling them to suck it up, of their teammates thinking they’re being dramatic, of teachers feeling pity for them, of their friends not understanding. And then you feel bad, like a burden, because you know so many people have it worse than you. Even though, you are actually grateful for everything you have, and you don’t understand either what’s wrong. You play this back and forth game between telling someone, and not. And eventually you hide, and hold it in, and let it chip at you day by day. Even though, it leaves you feeling empty, alone and confused. You convince yourself that no matter what, the feeling within you, that only you know, would never get as bad as feeling like everyone you knew, was judging you. And that’s the irony and shame of it all. You tell someone you hurt your knee, and they all come running, you tell someone you’re depressed, and they all run away. Our society is so flawed in this way. We are so accepting and concerned for any body part breaking or being destroyed other than our brains. We are so ignorant to what is happening right in front of us. So we put it off and hope that it’ll just magically get better.
It scares me honestly, to admit I’m depressed. Sometimes I fear there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, that there’s no view at the top of the mountain, that there won’t be a rainbow after the rain. People hide behind this perfect projected version of themselves and frequently forget that no one in this world is perfect, no one has a good day everyday. And then it’s so easy to get caught up in the opinion of others. And it’s easy to think that admitting you need help is a sign of weakness. And it’s easy to forget that the people who really matter, who really love you, will believe in you, and will fight to understand ways they can help. And that’s what makes this thing so hard, depression so hard to admit, to understand, to talk about.
I fear this ignorance. This ignorance that people have about depression. I fear that many people with depression are shameful and embarrassed to speak up and tell anyone. That’s not the way our world should be. That’s not the way our world should EVER be. So how can we change it? I wish I knew. But I think, it begins with one. One person speaking up, sharing their story. And hopefully it’ll inspire someone else to share theirs. And after that, that person inspires another. Then maybe someday, you’ll find that when someone asks how you are, you’ll be able to look them in the eye and say you’re going through hell, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll say the same thing back. And you’ll both realize that’s okay. That you’re both going to be okay. That admitting you need help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Strength because you’re able to actually admit you need help, but also bravery because even though telling someone scares the shit out of you, you did it anyway, and courage because you finally said to yourself that enough is enough.
I hope that the next time someone tells me glitter fits my personality, they mean it, and not because they only know my outward projected self, but because they know everything about me and still believe in me, and still see a sparkle in my eye.