*Trigger warning for depression and self harm*
For me, my depression was all about pretending. Just keep smiling and no one will notice. Just keep saying, “I’m fine” and they will assume you are. For several months, not until I went public with it on my blog, no one except my husband knew what I was hiding behind my smile.
No one knew I would get home from work and instantly medicate with alcohol to numb my emotions after I failed to get pregnant again and again, despite the fertility drugs that were supposed to help.
No one knew about my appointments with a psychiatric nurse practitioner, who put me on Zoloft to help.
No one knew how I cried over every pregnancy and birth announcement on Facebook.
No one knew how often I would simply break down and cry under the weight of my emotions.
No one knew the hours I spent pouring my heart and soul into my journals, trying to make sense of what was going on in my life.
No one knew that at times I was passively suicidal.
No one knew of the occasions I took a box cutter to my skin, beginning first with simple cuts, then progressing to full words. BROKEN. LOSER. FAILURE. ADDICT. I was none of those things, yet I felt as if that were all I was.
Why do people with depression always feel the need to hide it? Because even during this day and age, depression is stigmatized. Those of us with depression are made to feel ashamed, like it’s not a real disease. Like we should be able to just will ourselves out of it. That if you’re on medications for depression, you’re crazy. That if you see a counselor, you’re unstable. That if you’re depressed, you’re automatically suicidal. Some of these things may be true. But it’s not fair or correct to assume that they apply to everyone who has a mental illness.
Just as you can’t help catching the flu or getting appendicitis, people with depression can’t help that they have it. Sometimes the circumstances of life get to be too much and it’s something that happens. Others likely have a genetic predisposition to mental illnesses, but that’s something they can’t help either.
No one who has a mental illness is at fault for their illness. We need to stop being treated like we are. Then maybe, it will be “acceptable” in society to have a mental illness…and we won’t have to pretend anymore.