Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the world. Each year depression affects more than 17 million people worldwide. This is one in every eight teens. But despite depression being one of the most common mental disorders, there are a lot of misconceptions that create a negative stigma that discourages those who are suffering to seek help.
Depression can affect anyone at any given time. Just because someone lives “the perfect life” doesn’t mean they may not be internally struggling. And just because someone does not physically harm themselves doesn’t mean that “they’re lying” or “not actually depressed”. Depression can come in many different shapes and sizes depending on who is experiencing it. One person may feel more control over their life through self-harm whilst another may gain control through their actions towards others. Neither of these is positive and thus is the crux of the disorder.
Depression isn’t something a person can control. There’s no imaginary switch that can be turned on and off. These people are dealing with it 24/7. Some days are good, you might feel somewhat happy. But then that happiness may quickly fade and you’re crying and screaming on the floor for no reason other than self-loathing.
This week marks a year since I waved goodbye to my physiologist for the last time, and it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come in just one year. Little do my peers at school know, I had been struggling with severe clinical depression since 2012. Some days were good days, there was a real smile on my face. Other days, getting out of bed felt equivalent to climbing Mount Everest and I just wanted my life to be over so I could stop feeling the way I was. My depression reached a head around March 2013, and it felt as if I would never be happy.
I was having panic attacks and crying in the corner of my bathroom with the door locked, screaming at my mother to “Call Belinda! Call Belinda!” I couldn’t function without my weekly sessions with my psychologist, Belinda, she was the only person who could make it seem as if all my problems weren’t going to drown me like quick sand. I was crying myself to sleep every night, wishing that I wasn’t alive, wishing that I had a terminal illness so I didn’t have to do it myself and that my family wouldn’t blame themselves. I dragged my feet around school, my grades dropped, I put on weight that I’m still struggling to loose; I stopped enjoying the things I used to love and started cancelling most plans with my friends because I was sick of plastering a fake smile to my face whilst feeling dead inside. It was as if there was a raincloud covering me everywhere I went paired with 100kg weights sitting on my shoulders. Everything was a struggle; I didn’t see how life was worth living.
But slowly, those 100kg weights seemed to get lighter, and I didn’t feel like everything was weighing me down. I started to enjoy life more in small increments. It was still common place for me to cancel plans because I was having a rough day, but not nearly as often as before. Looking back, I think the changing point for me was the two Duke of Edinburgh camps I went on, purely because someone told me I wouldn’t be able to do it. What initially was my need to always be right eventuated into pushing all of my limits and realising, I could do anything. After coming home from those trips, I realised I was okay. I didn’t want to cry and scream for no reason anymore. From then on, I still had bad days, but that was okay, because there were so many good days in between those. And now, there are even more good days between the bad. I can’t remember my last bad day.
If you have depression, I want to tell you what you’ve probably heard a thousand times; it gets better. I’m a living example of this and so are many others. It’s not going to be easy, because let’s be honest here, life isn’t easy. But you have to make a start, because how are you ever going to cross the finish line when you haven’t even signed up for the race?
It’s a slow process, and I can’t pretend to know all the answers because I don’t know what it was that made me feel alive again. But you have to try something because feeling alive after feeling dead for so long, is indescribable.
First I want you to go onto your Tumblr and unfollow all the depression blogs you follow, I know you do, because I used to as well. It used to be a security to me. Seeing those photos and those texts posts made me feel like I wasn’t alone, because they were feeling what I was feeling. However, what I know now is that they were making me feel worse and encouraging the self-hate and sadness to continuously bubble. But before you unfollow them, I want you to send them a message. Tell them why you’re unfollowing them, tell them you believe in them and you think they could do something amazing one day. Because, they’re just waiting for someone to believe in them like I believe in you.
Next, I want you to find someone you trust to talk to. It doesn’t have to be a psychologist as I know they’re not accessible for some people. If you live in Australia, you can actually get 10 free sessions a year through Medicare. Use those sessions. Pour your heart out. Cry. Do what you need to do to make you feel whole again. You don’t need pills or medication to “cure” depression. Sure, they can help, but they also feel like you’re a robot, and just following the movements. All you need is a little bit of hope and a lot of drive.
I’ll warn you now, it won’t be easy. It’s a hard slog, but that day when you’re sitting in the sun surrounded by friends instead of alone in your bedroom, when you finally realise you’re happy, and have been for a long time, you’re going to be so thankful you decided to try.
Depression affects so many people around the world, I think of myself as one of the lucky ones though, because I was able to pull myself out before I was able to do something I wouldn’t be alive to regret. If you know someone who’s struggling, help them; tell them you love them and that you believe in them. That’s all they need to hear.
In the end however, it’s down to you. You are your own super hero, you don’t need to be saved, but who was Batman without Robin?
Be your own Batman.
Be someone else’s Robin.
Whoever you are, I believe in you, like so many believed in me.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts please call a helpline and get the help you deserve. You can even talk to an online counsellor and tell them how you’re feeling without having to open your mouth. I want to be there when you graduate high school, university, and when you change the world.
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
These and many other similar helplines are accessible 24/7 and are free. It’s always a good time to call.