It was 2010, I was 21 years old, living on my own for the first time, and I was battling depression. That’s something that I haven’t shared with many people. Maybe I was embarrassed, maybe I didn’t want to seem weak, maybe I’m just too private of a person, but for whatever reason, it’s a secret that I’ve kept to myself apart from my closest friends and family. But I want to write about it today because it’s something that needs to be talked about.
Depression, and mental health issues in general, have found their way into societal conversation more than ever before, and for good reason. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people will suffer from some sort of mental or neurological health disorder at some point in their lives. That’s almost 2 billion people globally. 2 BILLION PEOPLE! And yet, there’s still this stigma attached to mental health issues.
Often times people, men especially, will hide their struggle because of this stigma. Back in 2010 and 2011 I was one of those people, but I overcame it. Let me tell you how…
I asked for help. At some point, after months of fighting it, I decided that enough was enough. I went to my doctor, who referred me to a psychiatrist, who took the time out of his day to listen to what I had to say, who prescribed me with a medication that would help combat my illness. It helped remarkably, but perhaps the biggest relief, the thing that helped the most, the “last straw” that I removed from my back that led to a tremendous weight being lifted off of my shoulders and allowed the light of the world to shine on my face again, was opening myself up to my friends.
My roommate at the time, bless his soul, sat with me that day when I came home from my first session with my psychiatrist and asked me about what was going on, and finally, FINALLY, I told him, and most importantly, he listened. He didn’t judge, he didn’t try to offer unwarranted advice, he didn’t try to brush it off as “just a phase.” He just sat there and allowed me to speak my mind, and it was liberating.
I probably sat on the front porch that day for a good hour and rambled on about everything that led me to feel how I was feeling, and I’m sure some of what I was saying was nonsensical to someone like him who didn’t and had never dealt with a mental health issue, but it didn’t matter, because he reaffirmed himself as one of my best friends that day by simply listening, and I thank him for that because it helped more than he will ever know.
So to those of you experiencing depression, or anxiety, or any other mental health issue, I implore you to look at me as an example of how much good can come from just letting yourself go and opening yourself up to vulnerability. Find someone who you feel comfortable with, tell them about it, and I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their response. Seek professional help. Fight it with your life, because that weight is not something to carry around forever; it will CRUSH you. If you just face it head on, dig your feet into the ground and refuse to allow it to dictate your life. It gets better. I promise you, it gets better.