What My Depression Taught Me
Note: This is the first time I have ever publicly acknowledged and labelled what I went through a year ago. The strange thing about depression is that anybody can have it. From that cheerful girl in your math class who always seems to be smiling, to that old man you see on the subway, anyone can be a victim. Some people believe that in order to be depressed, something really dire has to happen- something big, dramatic and upsetting.
But this is so not the case. It's human nature to have times of insecurity, sadness, loneliness, stress. The scary thing about depression is that you feel bad, but you can't pinpoint the source of your discomfort. Nothing has to really happen to depress you. Sometimes it just happens and all you can do is sit through it and try to pick yourself back up.
To me, depression was always something foreign and distant. I never saw myself experiencing it, and indirectly looked down on people who had, simply because I did not understand how anyone could be so unhappy.
I started to feel really down during the summer before my senior year of high school. It's hard to explain exactly how I felt. I guess it all started at home. I stopped spending time with my parents and sister because I didn't feel as close to them. My relationships with my friends became strained. I felt extremely unconfident and low. Small problems overwhelmed me. Peoples' differing opinions scared me. I could feel my outer shell breaking, revealing my extreme vulnerability to the entire world.
I've always prided myself on being a strong, confident girl. Before that summer, I had been undeterred by others, and had my own views about life. I was very close to my family, and my sister was my best friend. I got along well with everyone around me, for the most part. Because of this, it was hard for me to accept that I was actually depressed. How could someone so strong and determined be so weak?
It was a hard year, fraught with tears, outbursts, emotions, and stress. I dreaded going to school. I was afraid to study for tests that I knew I would fail. I feared sleeping by myself, sometimes waking my parents up in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep. Instead of me watching out for my little sister, she was the one taking care of me. I tried therapy in vain. Nothing seemed to be working.
I don't remember exactly when I stepped out of it all. Maybe it was when I flew back to India with my mom to spend some time in the motherland with family who genuinely loved me. Maybe it was when my dad told me that nobody could help me if I refused to be helped. It could have been when my sister looked at me with real disappointment in her eyes when I refused to go out with her for the 38th time.
The thing about depression is that it's like a black hole that's rapidly growing inside you. If you don't escape it in time, you are going to be stuck in a whirlpool indefinitely, until you find a way to create a force strong enough to come out of it. But the longer you wait, the more you get sucked in and the harder it gets.
In the end, I was able to deal with my depression through continued support from my family. My parents helped me to slowly rebuild my confidence and self-esteem. My teachers looked out for me in school when my parents weren't there to take care of me. My sister reminded me of all the fun things that life has in store. But above all, I chose to face my inner demons. I kissed my vulnerability goodbye when I realised that my biggest enemy is me. No one can bring me down more than myself.
When I look back at that one year, I always wonder where I would be if I chose to stay unhappy forever. Today, nothing seems to scare me anymore, because I feel like I've experienced the lowest of lows already. Unhappiness may present itself in a multitude of ways but at the end of the day, happiness from within is what keeps you alive.
To those who have faced depression and come out of it, my heart goes out to you. And to those among us who are still struggling, I pray that you find your way out of your black hole.