It definitely didn’t come without warning. There were signs sure: lack of motivation and appetite, a general disinterest in life, loss of pleasure or interest in things I once enjoyed. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be depressed, as many others would have you believe. It's not like I wasn’t working hard enough or that I lacked motivation. I was a B+ and A student. My parents had made me believe I lived an easy life because they grew up in much worse conditions than me and struggled a lot with satisfying biological needs such as need for hunger and thirst. They chastised me when I would comment on feelings of despair and emptiness, yet praised me for the most superficial of achievements like getting an A on a test. Most of my life I believed myself to be fine, even though I called myself a monster at six years old. I would constantly call myself ugly as a result of growing up in an all white town, and the humiliation I would face from my peers and teachers. My family would constantly invalidate my emotions, yet at the same time claimed to love and know what was best for me. All these signs I did not see because I was made to feel bad for feeling bad. That mantra has been stuck in my head for a long time. I felt bad for feeling bad. To an extent I still do, but at the time I had not considered any of this. It really did feel like it came out of nowhere, without warning or trace, or any indication that I had started feeling bad. The first time I realized I was depressed, was the start of the most turbulent period of my life.
To my surprise, the first symptoms I felt were purely sleep related. Prior to puberty I had a pretty strict bedtime, and would average eight hours a night. This helped with my energy levels, but now I was getting eight hours a week on the weeks where my stress was uncontrollable. I struggled to fall asleep, feelings of sadness and guilt flooded my thoughts, the comments of my peers replayed in my head constantly. The constant catosphrophising of every little situation and blowing it up into a nightmare scenario. My sleep schedule at times would become so reversed, I would wake up at 3 pm after falling asleep at 6 am. Insomnia ridden nights started to become the norm as I kept falling deeper into despair. Because of the lack of sleep, my energy levels were drained, and I would pretty much be tired 24/7. It wasn’t just my lack of sleep that caused the unbearable lack of energy. Even on the nights where I did get 8 hours, as few and far between as they were, I still felt like I had a black cloud looming over my head. It would take me years to realize that the reason I felt so weak was that I was very depressed. Sure sleep contributed to it, but the constant overworking from my brain due to overthinking and my negative nihilistic thoughts drained my body of any energy.
My world view slowly started to change. Before fifteen I blissfully enjoyed life, unaware of the trauma I was enduring from my family and peers. Negativity began to seep into almost every thought I had. I began to overthink excessively, always worried that every little thought will lead to the next and to the next and it usually did. I would look to negative events as confirmation bias that my life was miserable and it will always be that way. I began to look to superficial things like clothes and video games to fill my time, attempting to ignore that looming cloud over my head. This was a fallacy because materialism does not breed happiness, only emptiness.
The first time I realized I was depressed I was in my dad's car, coming home from a track meet. It was after the sun had gone down, and the winds in the air moved the leaves like ducks floating downstream. My overwhelming emotions took over, and I began to weep heavily. My depression had gotten too unbearable to not overlook. To my fathers credit, he was concerned but was unable to connect the dots as to why I was feeling this way. He thought maybe somebody had yelled at me that day, or I got a bad grade on a test. This sentiment would continue into adulthood, unfortunately poisoning the already broken relationship I have with my parents. For the time being, however, I appreciated the care my dad showed. I changed the subject of the conversation quickly after that, and it would not be brought up again for a while, but it eventually caught up to me
This time, I was at the dinner table with my parents. I could barely finish my food, and my parents began to ask what’s wrong. I told them I had suicidal ideation, and that I was considering self harm in some of the most gruesome ways possible. My parents were concerned and while they were against the idea of medication, they wanted me to go to therapy. It was a good start to a long mental health journey, a journey that would be plagued with drug addiction, loss of friends, hospitalization, physical assault, and many more family troubles. What I think resented most from my family is that they always said that compared to their lives, my life was easy. After struggling with Bipolar disorder for this long, I can definitively say my life was far from easy. Something that even my family realized through the amount of suffering I endured over my teenage to adult years.
When I found out about Psych News, I was hesitant to put my name in the headline. But I eventually realized that my story is not too dissimilar to many of those at Hunter. Unfortunately, growing up I was actively discouraged from saying anything about my mental health in fear that it would keep me from potential job opportunities, making friends, etc. This falsehood continued and still continues into my adult life. I’m not writing this essay for pity, as a matter of fact I despise it. I want people to know that they are not alone. That your story should be heard, and that the act of opening up about mental health troubles should be normalized. The continued stigma around it isolates people like me who felt like everything would be lost if my big “secret” got out. In reality my friends, cousins, and mentors all liked to hear my own story, and I know someone would wanna hear your story too.