Depression is like a big black hole that you always seem to be teetering on the edge of. Once in a while (or once a month, or once a week, or once a day etc.) you fall in. Sometimes you only fall onto one of the many ledges that line the hole’s walls and your fall into the depths of the abyss is broken, although, admittedly, it is still painfully. Sometimes nothing stops you from hitting the hard, cold ground at full speed. Hopefully, something – or someone – pulls you out each time you stumble. That something or someone might be your family, a sliver of sunlight that momentarily brightens your heart or it might simply be you, your inner strength and your resolve to survive and climb your way back out of the hole.
I am always on the edge of that hole. Right on the very edge. I’m so close to falling in that a mere gust of wind feels like enough to send me spiraling down into the darkness. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t feel that way, although the visualization is new. I have depression and its threats hang over my head every single day.
The problem is that, in theory, I have no reason to be depressed. Sure, there are aspects of my life that are hard and that test me, push me and force me to grow (however difficult that is) but I’m 21. I’m a student at a very good university. I’m physically healthy. I have a great dad and brother looking out for me. The world is meant to be my oyster. So, I suppose I get it when people say “Ellen, snap out of it. You have everything going for you. Get happy. Now.”
There is a lack of visibility for teenage and young adult depression. It’s almost as if no one really believes in it. To be honest, there’s still even a lack of understanding of depression as a mental illness. If you have depression, you have a chronic illness. It doesn’t go away, even though the symptoms may ease. It doesn’t make you less valuable in the same way that having a physical disease doesn’t diminish your value. People still seem to struggle with that fact, though, and we live in a society that hasn’t quite got it yet. They certainly haven’t got it when it comes to young people.
There is no obviously visible reason for me to be depressed, so I shouldn’t be. Simple logic indeed, but deeply wrong and highly damaging to me and to my generation. I’m human. I find life hard. We all do. I may be young but that doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle or that I haven’t been through a hell of a lot. Instead of being torn down, I should be built up for surviving the days when I fought with suicidal thoughts. I should be praised for recognizing that I have this illness and working hard to combat it as best as I can. We all should.
Unfortunately, the simple truth is that no one can take care of you in your depressed state except you. Other people can be there for you, of course, but you are the only one who really knows what you need. I moved to England last year and there is nothing like moving to another country that’s a million miles away from your family and friends to teach you that your emotional well being is on you. I wish someone else could cure me of the blues every time they strike. It’s never worked that way, though. On the plus side, this gives me full license to take care of myself in whatever way I need to. People will – and do – judge when I have to hibernate under my duvet for a week or when I need to ditch a couple of items off my to do list and take an indulgent day but sometimes I need to do it for my own well being. No one else has to get it.
This has turned into a longer ramble that I anticipated but I have one last thought. I still don’t know how relationships factor in here. Romantic relationships that is. I don’t know what the right balance is between asking for support and taking care of myself. Asking someone to listen versus knowing when I need to talk to a therapist. Explaining that it’s worth them loving you through your bad days because you will get back to good days. It’s tricky. The day I figure it out, I’ll let you know.
Until then, I’m working on it.