“You’re not depressed again, are you?” The exasperation in his voice was palpable. The tone: accusatory. The blame: packaged and ready to be sent.
It’s challenging living with a mental health disorder. It’s more challenging when your parent(s) don’t understand mental health disorders. It’s even more challenging when your parent(s) don’t understand your mental health disorder.
I know for a fact that I am not alone in this struggle. Yet it still doesn’t make it any less important, less hurtful, or less meaningful. I say this because if you are someone who can relate, however similar our stories may seem, they are different and our reactions to them are different. Yet we all can find hope.
Depression and anxiety have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. At times, they hung out in my peripheries—never really showing their faces in my everyday life. At other points in my life, they were in the driver’s seat, steering me into a black forest of isolation. And, sometimes, they were on the verge of exploding—bubbling, preparing for the right time.
An event in early childhood triggered my predispositions to anxiety and depression. Anxiety became a part of daily life for me. I had no idea what anxiety was back then, nor did any of my close family members. It was clear to anyone who was looking that I wasn’t like other kids, though. An introvert is one thing—but someone who is afraid to talk to peers, afraid to walk into the lunchroom, afraid to attend softball games, and just plain, afraid—this is another thing. This is an anxiety thing.
Anyone who has experienced both anxiety and depression simultaneously may know what I am talking about when I say that they are a breeding ground for guilt, shame, and burden. I imagine a Petri Dish of anxiety and depression and the tenfold anxiety that you breed with it. It’s hard to bear.
As soon as I could, I began self-medicating my anxiety. I found something that alleviated it for short periods of time, and I hung on to that. What kid wouldn’t? I didn’t know any better. I had no idea about anxiety disorders. I had no idea about the affects that heavy drinking could have on my developing brain and body. I had no idea that this thing would bring me more into isolation than I had ever been before.
During the midst of all of this self-medication, I urged my father to take me to a psychiatrist. There, I was diagnosed with Depression and placed on medication. I felt no sense of relief from this diagnosis, no empathy from family, and no insight into myself. Just slight relief from medication.
I would struggle with depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse thereafter for the next decade. I don’t regret any of my struggles. I do think that if it were treated differently, though, it could have been a shorter struggle, or a slightly less painful one.
And so this is what I have to say to you, reader: some people are not meant to understand your journey, and it’s not their job to. Sometimes that may even include your parents and close family members. It doesn’t mean they love us any less, it means they love us to the best of their ability.
Your struggle is your story. You were meant for this story, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s to inspire others. Maybe it’s to help others, or to write a book, or to be a social worker, or to have a larger capacity for love. Whatever the reason is, I promise you there is one.