Before I was officially diagnosed with major clinical depression and anxiety, I knew I was different. An no, I'm not talking about simply being "unique" or just having a "one-of-a-kind" personality. I always felt like I was an outsider looking in a completely different world.
I was an A+ student throughout all of my grade school years, teachers telling my family I had so much potential and that they never had any issues with me in the classroom. At home, I was more easily angered and had a temper that I couldn't seem to let go of, and it was frustrating being such a young kid with so many emotions. The realization of being different came in grade school when I was constantly evaluating myself in comparison with my peers. They all seemed to make friendships easier and while I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, they just seemed happier than I was. One day, in 4th grade, during silent reading time, I sat there looking around and that's when it hit me.
It was like they all had something I didn't have as if they looked at the world in color, and I was missing out, standing in my own black and white realm.
Let's take a look on the flip side. What does everyone see when they're on the outside looking in on me?
I love to sleep. If there's ever a time someone is having trouble contacting me it's most likely because I'm taking a nap or still in bed. While sleeping gives me a chance to let my brain rest, let me tell you, the process of falling asleep is drastically different. It's like the thought train doesn't stop and it can be hauling a variety of thoughts, big and small. To give you a better idea of my brain at bedtime, I've written up what might be going on before I fall asleep. I know it's going to look like a crazy jumbled mess, but I encourage you to read it all.
Today was the longest day of my life. I have so much homework to do. I should try and skip a nap tomorrow to get things done. I wonder how my mom is doing. Maybe I should call her...but it's probably too late. Did I take my medication today? I think so. I hope I did well on my theory test today. It was so hard. Ugh, I'm exhausted. I wish I could fall asleep. I need to prepare for my saxophone performance next week. Did I pay all of my credit card bills? I should start working more hours. I need to make another appointment with my therapist. My head is pounding, I hate side effects. What if I failed that test? Did I say something wrong to my friends recently? Maybe they're mad at me...no, that's ridiculous. I miss my dad. I wish I was at home. I need to start blogging more. I have so many ideas, I just wish I had the energy to do it. I also should start working out soon. My stomach feels so terrible, maybe I need to take my anxiety meds. That makes me feel good. I'm still so tired why won't my brain just shut off and let me go to sleep...
Unfortunately, that all occurs in about only 5 minutes. I might not be asleep for another hour or longer (unless I'm truly exhausted and my body defeats my brain). And that doesn't guarantee that it will be a good night's sleep, especially if I'm super stressed.
This is my normal.
My normal includes strange eating patterns, terrible nights of tossing and turning, frequent headaches and almost constant stomach issues. My normal means overthinking things for hours, days, and weeks, and constantly reminding myself that my depression doesn't define me. My normal means putting an extraordinary amount of energy into everyday tasks, such as getting out of bed, going to class, and even taking care of my basic needs at times.
My life consists of always wondering about my interactions with people, simply out of fear that I'm a "burden" of sorts, or thinking I'm bothering them. Making friends is terrifying and I have trained myself to put on an "emotional mask" when I need to.
I see a therapist once or twice a month, depending on how I'm doing. I take medications which have helped immensely. There are nights when I forget, and my body is sure to remind me of it the next day when the withdrawal symptoms hit.
That's the inside of living with depression. Well, at least merely scratching the surface of it. That's been my life for about as long as I can remember. I'm not sure what it felt like to not have my emotions constantly run my day-to-day life. I don't remember the last time I wasn't completely "in my head."
So for those of you, on the outside - yes, there are days when I envy your position. To live in a world that isn't so black and white. But that's when I remember, everyone is sort of on their own inside looking out. And on the outside looking in. It sounds cliche, but you really don't know where people have been until you've walked a mile in their shoes. And I think that's incredibly true in the realm of mental health.
In no way am I attempting to get your sympathy or have you suddenly feel sorry for me. There's a lot of days when I do get caught up in feeling a bit sorry for me, but in the end, depression is what has made me the strong woman I am today. I'm not out here looking for shoulders to cry on, but to educate all of you on the importance of understanding mental health. There's an abundance of stigma out there that is doing nothing but harm to the millions of people that suffer from mental illness. Let's educate ourselves. Reach out to those who need it. Be a listening ear. A welcoming heart. First and foremost, let's understand and defeat the stigma. After all, we are all outsiders in one way or another.