I Am Not Alone

| July 12, 2016 | 1 Comment

Content warning: brief mention of suicide

I have a confession to make.

For most of my life, I always felt that I was living two different lives. There’s the life that everybody sees, where I’m a graduating senior, a teacher, a friend. That’s what others would tell you if you asked them who I was. I’d probably say the same thing too if you’d ask me to describe myself. I wouldn’t be lying, but I wouldn’t be telling you the truth either. Because there’s the life that everyone sees, and there’s the life that only I see. In this life that only I can see, I am someone struggling with depression; I have been for a long time now, and it’s still something that I’m dealing with today.

Before I was depressed I always thought that such feelings were synonymous with intense sadness and grief, and that they result from bad things happening in people’s lives. I also saw depression as something natural, and more importantly, temporary. And when the first traumatic events struck, I did feel sad. I remember telling myself how this was temporary and “just a phase” of life, and that I would “get over it” pretty soon.

But the sadness lingered. Just as days evolved into weeks, the sadness turned into confusion. And then weeks turned into months, and confusion became despair. And then despair was replaced by emptiness – a dullness that kept hollowing me out until I found myself unable to feel much of anything at all. By then, I had lost interest in almost everything, and whatever value I saw in life started slipping away. I resigned from my job. My classes became boring. I distanced myself from people.

Eventually, I wondered if I should be living at all.

When you know there's supposed to be shades of blue and green but this is all you see. photo credit: Lashing Down via photopin (license)

When you know there are supposed to be shades of blue and green but this is all you see. photo credit: Lashing Down via photopin (license)

Before my depression, I took pride in the fact that I rarely asked for help. I had defined myself by my competence and independence, and being the person people turn to for help. But when I got sick, I felt powerless, and the personal crisis that followed was devastating. Who was I if I was no longer strong and capable? How can others see me as nothing but a failure? How could I even respect myself if I couldn’t even get out of bed?

It was hard for me to find the willingness to tell others about my depression, and even harder to learn how to receive the kindness and compassion they gave to me. Asking for help made me feel guilty and embarrassed at my own vulnerabilities, and I took great lengths to downplay my increasingly erratic mental state. For a while, the facade held – until a friend of mine managed to see through my guise, and knew something was wrong. I won’t forget what she told me later that night:

S: I want you to call me before you do anything. An overdose, taking pills or anything like that.
Me: I’m fine. I’m not that far deep yet.
S: I know, I know. But just…just promise me, okay?
She held out her pinky finger. I chuckled, perhaps out of bemusement that something as trivial as a pinky promise could be taken so seriously, and perhaps out of gratitude because she was taking this seriously.
Me: (wrapping my pinky around hers) I promise.

I didn’t know it then, but having someone like her simply telling me that she would be there for me became the turning point to recovery. The subtext of what she said wasn’t just that she would be there for me, but that it is okay to be depressed. And when I started sharing my experience more and more, similar sentiments started to follow, from strangers to loved ones alike. Gradually, I realized that sometimes it is okay to be the person in need.

I managed to overcome depression through a combination of people who cared and services that helped. But I also know that such instances are rare, and that I am lucky to have found the courage to share my vulnerabilities in a world that often chastise vulnerability as a weakness. Society has stigmatized mental health issues to the point where victims would rather hide their sickness then seek the support they need. Such instances not only make things worse, but also promote the distorted sentiments that people of depression hold – that I once held as a victim. When you’re depressed, you feel as though you are dying, as though the world has suddenly become sterilized into subdued shades. When you’re depressed, you believe you are nothing, when it is so far from the truth.

There is no direct cure for depression. And in spite of all the varied methods and complex medicine promoted by the medical field, I hope that such a sickness can be treated more effectively in the future. For now, I will have to settle with embracing the experience itself, and reflecting on the things I have learned. And suprisingly, I found strength in embracing the terrible experiences that define our lives. Speaking about my depression won’t cure anything, but it helps me find closure and makes the experience worthwhile. Despite these six months of hell, despite all these torturous moments of desperation and loneliness, I am grateful that depression gave me greater insight on life. I now realized the importance of passing on love and compassion to those who need it. The good we feel comes through helping people, just as joy stems from the giving, not the getting. And because of that, I believe I am not so alone – that we are not so alone in the world anymore.

photo credit: Insecurities via photopin (license)

It’s okay. photo credit: Insecurities via photopin (license)

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Category: featured, Reflections, Social Activism, Thurman Thoughts

Mike Chan

About the Author ()

Mike graduated from BU in 2016 with a Elementary Education major and Mathematical Statistics minor. He is from Washington (the State) and a avid football fan, so don't be surprised to see him bunkered down by the television on Sundays. He's likes music, long naps, movies, Doctor Who, video games, and making people feel great (and sometimes altogether at once). If he is not writing here, he's probably busy rambling on Reddit or cooking something exotic. Follow his Twitter @karatemanchan37. You have been warned.

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  1. Ceci says:

    Thanks for writing this, Mike.

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