“I am not my depression”

I always thought of myself as an independent person. So when I went away for my first year of college and felt miserable, I thought I could take care of it on my own. I decided I wouldn’t be returning the following year about half way through the second semester. I looked forward to the end of the year as the light at the end of a tunnel that had been filled with me sobbing into my pillow for no discernable reason every other night and telling myself that my happiness had peaked in high school. Instead, I got home at the beginning of the summer and felt even worse, because now I didn’t even have something to look forward to. The end of the year had been motivating me. Now found myself directionless, with no plans for the fall and no idea why I was still unhappy.

There’s a history of depression in my family, and my mother – one of the few people who I let see exactly how upset I was – had been suggesting for months that I might be depressed and that maybe I should get some help. By the time the summer came I was willing to admit that what I was going through was depression. But I didn’t want help, and I didn’t think I needed it. “Help” meant a doctor I had never met before asking me to talk about the pain I had carefully been hiding from almost everyone I knew for the better part of a year, and then loading me full of pills that would make me act like not-myself.

I wasn’t supposed to be the type of person that got depressed in the first place. I was supposed to be resilient. I was supposed to be able to take care of myself. And now that I was depressed, I should be able to work it out on my own. I wanted to be able to do it alone. I labored under this false impression of what would be best for me until one day when I received a $15 parking ticket, which apparently had the power to reduce me to hysterics. Obviously, it wasn’t just about the parking ticket; it was just another in a long list of things that were wrong. But it occurred to me that, regardless of anything that had happened prior, this was not a healthy reaction to a parking ticket.

I’ve been off of anti-depressants for almost a year now, and I don’t want to sound cheesy here, but dealing with depression, as horrible as it was, made me feel stronger in the long run. Earlier this semester I was worried for a while that I was becoming depressed again and I felt the same feelings of inadequacy: I should be better, why aren’t I better? But this time I had the vocabulary to talk about it and the knowledge of what I had learned about myself the first time around. I am a resilient person. Asking for help does not necessarily denote helplessness and needing it does not mean you are weak.