What I Wish My Family and Friends Knew About My Depression

Something that I hear frequently wherever I go is the phrase, “I am so depressed right now”. It’s usually heard in the context of a TV show death, or getting a bad grade on a test. There is a very common misconception about what depression is, and what it’s like to live with depression. As someone who is medically diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, I would like to spread some light onto the subject and tell you just what exactly it is like to live with depression.

My very first period of depression was in 8th grade, and lasted about a year. I had just quit my swim team and was struggling to make new friends in class.

The thing is, sinking into depression is very gradual and you don’t usually notice it until it’s at its worst.

For me, it began with a loss of interest in activities I previously had enjoyed. Doing anything except the bare minimum felt like a chore. I wasn’t in any clubs, or went out with friends, and the only contact I had with other people was at school. Then came the disinterest in school. My grades began to slip because I simply did not care about whether I failed or passed.

During my earlier years in school I had always made sure to do everything on time, whether it be projects or homework. Eventually I stopped doing my homework altogether. During class I would space out and stare at the wall for hours at end.

My daily routine was getting harder and harder to do. I was late to school almost every other day because I struggled to convince myself to get out of bed. And after arriving back at my house after school, I would immediately go to my room and sleep. I felt like a wind-up toy; once the gear stops turning, I shut down completely. Isolating myself became normal.

About halfway through 8th grade I realized that I hadn’t experienced any emotion whatsoever. I was constantly numb and indifferent about everything. Caring about anything was hard. I was emotionally unavailable and it showed. The only time I talked to my family was when I was irritated. I lashed out at my parents and siblings constantly. Being around me must have been awful.

I lost the ability to express any serious emotion. The only way I could even come close to any was by making jokes about myself. All of my serious problems became jokes. The concern I received from my friends was brushed off with an “I’m fine.”

My depression affected me physically too. Basic hygiene was hard to keep up with, and I would go days without showering or brushing my hair because it was too hard. I wore the same sweatshirt everyday and just looked like a complete mess all the time. My awful appearance only pushed me to isolate myself further.

To cope, I began to eat. Food was the one thing that I actively did. Eating made me feel full, and I used it to temporarily fill the void that was my life. From 7th grade to the summer between 8th and 9th grade, I went from 135lbs to 160lbs. Some days, I would forget to eat, then maybe a day or two later I would binge like it was my last day alive.

My self esteem plummeted. I hated how overweight I was and despised how my peers where being successful when I was digging myself a hole. I constantly compared myself to others and that only made me feel worse. Using self-deprecating jokes became commonplace because to be honest, I hated myself.  I used them as a cry for help, but whenever I was confronted about it, I laughed and pretended like I was ok when I clearly wasn’t.

I would try to talk to my parents about how I was feeling, or the lack of it, but they brushed it off saying I was only using it as an excuse and that I was not depressed. Apparently I was “too young to be depressed.” But I knew that something was clearly wrong with me, and looking back, I didn’t realize how far I had fallen until my bout of depression temporarily ended.

I still struggle with my depression. School work is hard, and I still have to force myself out of bed. But I have made progress, I have been put on different medication that treats both my anxiety and my depression.  I’ve been trying to focus on staying healthy and, it has showed. I know my depression won’t just magically go away, no matter how much I wish it would.

But what I would like you to take away from this is, depression is not “feeling sad”. Depression is not something I can force myself to fix. Please don’t say that you are depressed, when you aren’t. If you suspect one of your friends or family members might be struggling, let them know you are there for them.

And please realize that struggling with mental illness doesn’t make you weak.