I was three months into university when it happened. At some godforsaken hour of the night, staring into the bathroom mirror, my body heaved into a fit of tears. That may sound like melodrama, but depression will do that to you. After all, the condition is inherently absurd – my grades were high, my family as wonderful as always, and my future bright. Being unable to pinpoint a reason for my sadness merely amplified it.
I withdrew from family. My social anxiety made it impossible to make friends. I grew stagnant, unwilling to seek help. It was not until after university, when my emotional pain threshold was hit, that I sought a doctor. Even then, I jumped from one medication to another, job to job, all while enduring one sleepless night after another. With fewer opportunities and greater dependence on alcohol, I reached my lowest point. Some people begin to improve before that. Then again, others never improve at all.
I remember sitting in the tiny doctor’s office while he thoroughly examined by personal and family history. It was a whirlwind. He made it clear that it was an illness, and not one that simple goes away overnight. It is something I have to be diligent about for the rest of my life.
Depression is a mental condition. To be even more direct, it is an illness, no different from any other. A physical malady unlike the rest, as it is one that is shrouded in cognitive dissonance. We struggle to see the brain and the body as one cohesive unit. This divide between the physical and the mental makes it hard to see depression for what it is. It is an illness. It can be treated. It can be cured.
Getting help took many steps, and those are steps I am still taking. They are a mix of therapy, medication, socializing, eating well, exercising, and more. A potpourri of positive behaviour that was a far better concoction any mix of drugs and drinks could muster up. What has been important to remember is that they all work in tandem – not one of those aides would help me on their own.
Every sufferer has a different story to tell. Your struggles with mental illness may be better or worse than mine. Regardless, it is important to share your story. Not everyone will understand, nor do they have to. Yet it is vital for people to know they are not alone, and that it can get better.
If I could only offer one piece of advice, it would be this: There are many steps you can take to tackle depression, but the most important thing of all is to take steps. Even if you have no clue whatsoever what you are doing, just make a doctor’s appointment, call a friend, start exercising. Stagnancy is depression’s breeding ground. Any positive action is a step in the right direction.