I have lied about receiving therapy for the last five years of my life and so few people know what I deal with on a daily basis. Of course that seems silly, why would I lie about such a crucial aspect of my life? The reason has quite a bit to do with the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, especially depression. It took me two years after my first suicide attempt to open up to anyone for fear of being ridiculed. I felt like I had failed my family and my friends because I had given up on myself. Society has always portrayed suicide as a cowardly escape from the real world. Don’t believe this. Suicide is never the answer, but just because you long for death doesn’t mean you’re weak. Nor does the contemplation of suicide indicate a cry for attention. These are some of the things I have learned about dealing with mental health:
“Some people have it so much worse, why can’t you be grateful?”
Here are some other responses to feelings of depression my friends and I have experienced:
“You’re too young to really know what depression is”
“Just think positive!”
“This is all a part of God’s plan”
“You’ve strayed from your religion and I am worried for your soul”
“You don’t seem depressed”
If you’re ever met with these responses I encourage you to just walk away from that person. These comments perpetuate the stigma of depression and cause individuals to feel shame for their condition. It also adds to the culture of silence. Do not let the ignorance of others prevent you from getting the care you deserve. This may be hard when that reaction comes from your parents, but there are people out there who care about you and will do anything to help you. Having a strong support system is so important, and if you are in a place to be that person, please reach out.
Admitting you need help and taking the steps to get there does not make you inadequate. You won’t always have the answers and you don’t have to fix these problems on your own. After two suicide attempts, I finally gave in to seeing a therapist, and at the age of 14 I was diagnosed with OCD, anxiety, and severe depression. Every day is a battle; some days you win, some you lose. Just because there are days without intrusive thoughts doesn’t mean the entire thing was a fabrication of the imagination, it means things are getting better. Through all the troubles of finding decent mental health care, the repeated adjustments in medication, and opening up to new therapists, I’m finally willing to put up a fight and I won’t let the ignorance of others affect that, and it’s a fight I will win.
Vaughn is a contributor for The Millennial Times.