“You can’t be depressed, you’re so bubbly all the time!”
“But you’re so…happy.”
“You have so much going for you, how could you possibly be depressed?”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of these phrases, I’d be a very wealthy woman and could retire by age 35. I could probably buy a convertible or a vacation home.
When I was 10, I thought about taking my own life for the first time. There was a lot of stress going on at that time – my dad was very sick and in the hospital, I was being bullied at school, and my mom was just barely holding it together trying to raise 3 kids without my dad. I wrote my goodbye letters to my parents, siblings, and my cat. I knew exactly how I was going to do it. In retrospect, my plan would not have worked, but it is terrifying to know that those thoughts entered the mind of a 5th grader. I was told that I was just going through a tough time, and to hang in there, champ.
My teen years were rough. I was bullied, was never really good at anything, and developed an abusive relationship in my mid and late teens that carried into college. I thought frequently of killing myself, but I wrote it off as normal for someone who was dealing with the things I was dealing with.
In college, I broke off my relationship with my abusive boyfriend, but lost a friend to a car accident shortly after. I stopped believing in God, was guided back by a professor and pastor, and became a born-again Christian. I graduated college with a 4.0, was active in a number of clubs and organizations, and had some really close friends to rely on. I was invited to hang out with people, I had a steady boyfriend that I adored, and developed a really close relationship with my mom and sister. I was in really good shape, I started to realize that I am beautiful, and guys started to notice me. I still thought about killing myself at least once a week. I wrote it off as old habits being hard to break.
In my early twenties, I got a job in my field right out of college, which is unheard of for many teachers. I made a lot of friends at work, broke out of the toxic relationship from college, and began dating the man that was going to be my husband. I started grad school and was absolutely crushing it, despite the people who told me I had bit off more than I could chew. I coached an academic team, was still active in sports, and felt like things really fell into place for me. I was truly happy and felt like I had made it for the first time in my life. I still thought about killing myself at least once a week. I couldn’t write it off anymore. I started talking about what I was feeling, and I was told that I couldn’t be depressed because I was doing all of these good things. I started to believe that. Maybe I was just exaggerating my feelings in my head all of these years. Maybe I was just over-dramatic.
Here I am in my mid twenties, I have a beautiful home and an amazing husband. I am crushing it at work, I am still crushing it in grad school, and I will graduate in a year with high honors. My mom is my best friend, I’m getting to watch my sister become an amazing young woman, and my brother finally found a group home where he is thriving. My dad is doing well and I have an amazing relationship with him that I never had before. My husband and I rescued a dog and have a loving old cat that is just a ball of fluffy joy. He has a good job and helps me around the house.
I still think about killing myself at least twice a month. Sometimes, I go into deep depressive phases that last for a month or so. I cry myself to sleep in the arms of my husband. I think about plowing my car into a tree on the way home from work. Sometimes I drink to make myself feel better. Sometimes I lash out at my husband so I feel like someone cares enough to fight with me. I look into the eyes of my pets and chastise myself for ever thinking about leaving these two beautiful angels and then I feel even worse about myself. I still show up for work every day with a smile on my face, my hair and makeup done, and ready to tackle the world. I still come home and make dinner most nights, our house is clean, and my husband and I still act like two kids in love. Most people don’t even know that I feel the way I do, and most wouldn’t believe me even if I told them.
Being successful does not mean you aren’t fighting your own demons. Being bubbly on the outside doesn’t mean you’re not falling apart on the inside. Truly, even being happy doesn’t mean you aren’t depressed at the same time. I am happy with this beautiful life that I have the privilege of living, but that does not stop the little monster from entering my thoughts at the most inconvenient and vulnerable times.
Depression is not about being sad. It isn’t about not being able to get out of bed in the morning (even though sometimes that is the case). It isn’t about breaking down in tears at random to the astonishment of strangers. It isn’t about wanting to kill yourself 24/7. It isn’t about drinking your demons away. Depression is about having everything, but still feeling this way. Depression is knowing that you have it all, but still having that jerk in your head whispering that you aren’t good enough, you aren’t smart enough, you aren’t loved, and the world would go on turning if you were to be gone. Depression is me putting on my happiest face and my brightest floral dress in the morning, but feeling the urge to die on my way home from work that is so strong that sometimes I have to pull my car over and breathe until I trust myself to drive again. Depression is calling your mom to come play cards with you because you just don’t trust yourself to be alone. Depression is feeling like all of this, but some of us still have the ability to function, and to go about our lives like nothing is wrong. You never know what someone else is going through, so please, always be kind.