A thousand words. That’s how much I wrote about my experience with anxiety and depression before I decided to stop. It’s Mental Health Awareness week and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to open up about something that I actively hide or try to discredit as often as possible. I started writing about my entire experience with it and I wasn’t even halfway through when I realized that: 1) it would end up being way too long for a regular blog post and 2) I don’t owe anyone an explanation for it to be valid. And that’s how it was beginning to feel.
If you know me personally, you might have an inkling of my anxiety and depression. But it’s also not something that I talk about a lot. The most I’ll open up on it might be on Twitter and it’ll only be about anxiety. That’s probably because it’s the harder of the two for me to hide. I’m your resident expert on covering up depression.
There are many ways I can open up right now. I can give you too many examples on how obvious it was that I had it in high school. I can give you my family history and my mom’s battle of it. I can give you my dad’s refusal of its existence. I can give you a plethora of how my culture shames it even more than the American culture that I’m constantly surrounded by, probably best summarized by an episode of George Lopez. I can give you all the times that the depression olympics have made my struggles feel insignificant because they’re not as arbitrarily bad as other people’s. But I don’t want to because these stories are already told somewhere. What I will tell you is the moment I realized that the only person who cares enough about me and puts me first, or second or even third has been, historically and consistently, me.
I was talking to a friend, catching up after a semester or two of me being away. I had been doing incredibly better in a new environment that allowed me the independence and freedom I needed to sort my shit out. He was genuinely happy to see my improvement, recalling on about a year and a half ago when I was at my lowest. He told me that he had been worried about me, he thought that maybe I might have been suicidal around that time.
This made me angry, but I didn’t show it. I also didn’t ask why he didn’t do or say anything. We saw each other about twice a week during that time, surely he could have brought it up. But I took a step back to breathe and think. We all have our own things to worry about, so the anger subsided. But it did lead me to the conclusion above. Once my father yelled at me that I was a bad and selfish daughter. Those words in that moment struck me hard. But I sunk my nails into that term. I ripped it from his mouth and etched it on my skin, proclaiming it loud and proud.
Yeah, I’m selfish. Yeah, I low key only care about myself. No one else is going to do it. And those who do or say they do are not the best at doing it. Only I know what is truly good for me. I’ve learned how to manage and cope with my depression and that likely doesn’t involve you. That’s why I don’t open up about my depression. I don’t trust that people have the capacity to deal with the emotional labor that would come with me opening up to them.
The shitty thing about it is when there are conversations about depression happening, and I can relate to the discussion, I don’t feel like I can participate. Because it might seem out of the blue or invasive because I don’t openly or often discuss it. I might come off more as an ally than someone who this also deeply affects. There’s a bit of depression olympics politics thrown in there too. We’re all guilty of it at some point even if we consistently try not to.
I guess that’s why I’ve decided to write this. To bring awareness not only to my struggle but to the fact that not everyone’s struggles as equally or openly as others. And that’s OK. If struggling in private is your way to cope and manage and it’s working, that’s valid. Too often I found therapy and counseling making matters worse. There are standard, conventional ways that help us navigate these illnesses, but you’re the pilot and ultimately know the best route. Trust yourself.