When you think of depression what comes to mind? Someone who doesn’t speak to anyone and appears anti-social? Someone who wears all black and recites morbid poetry? Someone who is covered in scars and constantly needing to be brought to the hospital? Someone who sits around all day and never appears to have any motivation?
Well, you’re not wrong, a lot of those people are probably suffering from depression…but so are people just like you.
That person with the perfect GPA and list of extracurriculars so long it can’t fit on one page. That person you have never seen without a smile on their face. That person who seems like everything is under control and they have it all together. That person who knows when, where, and how they are going to achieve their life plan. That parent who loves their child so much and seems like the picture perfect PTA parent.
Those people, they have it too. They suffer just as much if not more than some of the others. The scary thing about depression is that you don’t know what it looks like and it could happen to anyone. It could be happening to your closest friend and you might not even notice it.
People cope in their own ways, maybe you didn’t think about it but the perfect GPA was because by constantly focusing on their work and classes they were able to ignore the feelings of inadequacy and despair. Perhaps they have a smile because it’s easier than sharing that they aren’t okay and by pretending to everyone else, they may be able to fool themselves. That micromanagement of their future? With all that control how can you not be distracted? Picture perfect PTA parent? All that dedication, they couldn’t possibly be struggling, they made 4 trays of cupcakes for the bake sale and single-handedly organized the fundraiser for new books for the library.
No one really knows why people deal with things the way they do, they just do. Some people buy 8 planners and schedule every second of their life with “meaningful activities” and some people turn to a bottle of liquor and forget who they are. There is no one way to deal with emotions, or stress, or trauma, or expectation.
Rich? poor? black? white? Christian? Muslim? male? female? gay? straight? single? married? kids? and every category in between, Depression, it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, it only demands to be felt.
Anyone can suffer because everyone has pain, everyone has heartbreak, and everyone has problems. But, not everyone has the support of people who love them that they can trust to walk them out of the darkness like a candle in the night.
My brain chemistry isn’t right, I’ve had things happen in my life that not many others have experienced. I live a life that seems like depression couldn’t possibly take root, I have parents who love me, I have never wondered where the next meal is coming from or if I’m going to have a place to sleep, and more often than not I got the gadgets and material objects I wanted, I got into and went to my first choice and very expensive private school, I was involved in clubs, I was doing what young adults are “supposed” to do. But nevertheless, I have depression, and until recently you probably wouldn’t have guessed that every day for more than 3 years I wished for an accidental overdose or a car accident.
For more than 3 years I’ve felt almost nothing but emptiness and the obligation to act otherwise, to not waste what others would “kill for”.
So please, spare me the lecture of how others would love to have my “charmed” life, trust me even with all my privilege, it’s not that special.
Pain isn’t a competition.
It’s not about the fact that people are starving everywhere in the world, and other people are oppressed for having opinions that are different or even for looking different. These things are real and awful and damaging. But their existence? They don’t change how my brain functions, they don’t make my suffering better, they don’t invalidate how anyone feels because feelings are personal and real and they aren’t related.
You may wonder why I share this, you also may not, that’s fine too, it’s how you feel, but I write this and I share this because of something very important to me.
I know I’m not the only one.
I am not the only person to surprise their whole family by having issues when “I seemed like nothing ever bothered me and I had it all together”. I’m not the only one who has withheld their personal trials and feelings to make others feel better because there isn’t any need to involve others who probably have bigger more important things to think about than me. I’m not the only one who is high-functioning despite having depression and can fool you by putting out a great paper and a smiling photo on Instagram.
I’m not the only one. And I’m not the last.