According to the World Federation for Mental Health and a handful of Snapchat filters, Oct. 10 was the 26th annual World Mental Health Day.
I’ve already written about my own depression, and how much it sucks, so I’m not going to continue complaining. I want to talk about only issue with initiatives like last Wednesday’s — that they often issue blanket encouragements for people struggling with their mental health to open up about it no matter what.
While I’d never discourage anyone from speaking up about their mental health issues, I do think it’s important to consider what happens after they do and understand that it’s usually a small step toward feeling better — not a fix.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety — mainly depression — since high school, but I didn’t tell anyone about it until last year. Even then, I did my best to downplay how I really felt, worried that people would think I was crazy if I gave them the full truth. I’ve since been told that this is irrational.
But I’m still depressed.
As I started writing this, I actually glanced at my calendar to check if the reason I’d felt so shitty all weekend was because I was PMSing. It wasn’t.
But it scares me to consider how much worse off I’d be if I hadn’t started talking about my depression with people — first a therapist, then some of my friends and family members. It’s not easy, though, and it opens the door to a whole new set of issues.
For one, your friends will probably want to do their best to make you feel better when you tell them how depressed you are. It’s instinctual. If your friend is sad, you want to cheer them up; it’s not a particularly difficult or controversial concept.
But it gets frustrating for both parties when you realize you can’t laugh your way out of a depressive episode and that the best way to manage depression is through therapy and/or medication.
It’s frustrating for you, because things that used to cheer you up — like your friends sending you memes or ugly old photos of themselves — don’t anymore. And it’s frustrating for your friends, I imagine, because an important role of theirs is trying to make you happy and, if you’re depressed enough, nothing is going to do that.
It’s also frustrating when your friends feel like they can’t talk about their own issues with you anymore, because they’re worried about your mental state being too fragile. Again, if this is the case, they’re not doing anything wrong — they’re just trying to be ridiculously good friends. But then you feel guilty that they feel guilty for sharing their own issues with you, which can easily become an endless cycle of apologizing for things that aren’t either of your faults.
However, not everyone is empathetic and understanding about mental health issues.
If you do want to talk about your mental health, try to find people who won’t judge you or make you feel crazier than you already probably do.
It’s great if you can find that person (or people). But if you can’t, BuzzFeed regularly compiles social media posts about depression that are equally, if not more effective, than therapy and medication (at least for me).
It’s possible to handle depression and mental health issues alone, but it’s incredibly difficult — especially for college students, when you feel like you’re supposed to be dealing with everything on your own.
Mental health issues aren’t something you can fix by yourself. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I don’t regret opening up to people about my experience with depression. But I do wish that, before I’d done so, I had been more patient and realized that, even with me trying to articulate exactly how I felt, you really have to experience it yourself to understand it.
Not to be a downer or anything, but no matter how you spin it, depression sucks.