If you are reading this and we are friends or acquaintances, I assume that you’ve never suspected I spent most of 2014 wishing I was dead. May sound harsh, but it was my reality.
The social media era has all of us eager to share our happiest moments and achievements with each other, which is great, but in doing so we are denying the truth that it’s not all there is. I felt so artificial sharing photos of myself alluding that I was happy when the truth was that the majority of my days were spent in a consuming darkness. This unsettling sense of dishonesty once brought me to paint the word ‘sick’ across my forehead, willing myself to post it. Fear of rejection and mockery prevented me from doing so, but I knew I had to be honest eventually. So this is me being honest, giving full disclosure.
For anyone who doesn’t have first hand experience with what this darkness feels like, I will try to give you an idea. Depression is a parasite that lives inside of you, feeding off your joy, manipulating your thought processes, and substituting them with maladjusted perspectives of yourself and the world. For me, it took all meaning away from who I was and what I was doing here. It made life seem redundant, and every single day was a struggle to keep going. Happiness seemed like a foreign and unattainable realm that I would never again be a part of. I felt completely alone — like I was a faulty edition in a world of fully functioning models who were able to smile and laugh and enjoy all that life had to offer. I had no idea why but I could no longer connect with or relate to people. Suddenly, having conversations with those closest to me was anxiety provoking, so I turned to isolation. In this isolation my defective mind took over, and I began hearing an irrefutable voice telling me that I was nothing but a burden to those around me, that I was not worthy of life, and that it would be much better for everyone, especially myself, if I were gone. This voice was so powerful and consuming that I accepted it as truth, unable to conceive of anything different.
I now refer to this period of my life as the Dark Days. Every moment was lived through a thick black lens that filtered out all the love and joy around me. I had no idea why or how this was happening, or what to do about it. Talking to anyone seemed beyond impossible. How could I put into words that I felt like I was the embodiment of sadness, when I had no logical reason to be sad. How could I begin to express these feelings to others when I couldn’t understand them myself. No one had ever told me about this, no one else I knew had ever felt this way. Or so I thought.
It was only when desperate times brought on desperate measures that I got professional help, received my formal diagnosis, and began to work through the mechanisms of what was going on inside my head. I learnt that what brought it on was a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters, not faults with who I was as a person. I learnt that not only was I not alone in feeling like this, but at any given time millions of other Canadians were also suffering from depression. Most importantly, I learned that it was temporary, and that there were solutions other than suicide that could resolve the darkness I was experiencing. I began to receive the appropriate medical interventions in the form of prescription anti-depressants, psychiatric treatment, and weekly counselling. I slowly but surely began to regain my sense of self accompanied by a renewed drive to participate in life, and specifically, I developed a deep-rooted need to help others who may be suffering.
Today I can gratefully say that I feel healthy and whole, and am infinitely appreciative of the beautiful gift that is life itself. I can also say that I am frustrated. I am frustrated that I had no idea what was going on inside my own head. I am frustrated that for one of the most common diseases amongst my peers, I thought I was the only one suffering. I am frustrated that the resources that I was in need of were not made obvious or readily available to me, and only after my illness reached its darkest depths was I able to access medical support. I am frustrated because I, as someone with many loving family members and friends, felt incapable of communicating my struggle due to the associated shame I felt, which was being unconsciously perpetuated by these same loved ones.
It is this frustration that has brought me here. I am honoured to be an ambassador for SickNotWeak.com, I will be moderating on this website and actively participating in the mission to end the silent stigma surrounding mental illness and all its components. This stigma is what’s preventing people that are in need of help right now from seeking it. I dutifully confess my struggles to you, my social network, as a first step in moving this platform forward. Thank you for reading my story, and thank you for being aware of any judgmental notions you may be experiencing while reading it. I ask you to acknowledge if this post makes you perceive me differently, and know that this is the stigma doing its job. I ask you have the power to identify these notions, and move past them. I ask that you openly discuss this post with anyone and everyone, but try your very best to do so in a nonjudgmental manner. That is the only way we will collectively move forward — by expressing a united front of acceptance and support to anyone who is struggling. There are people around you in desperate need of happiness . . . by simply making the effort to talk about this, we can get it to them.
And if you are familiar with the darkness or any of its counterparts, please know — you are sick, not weak.