Picture this: you’re going about your daily routine. You wake up in the morning, hop out of bed, eat breakfast, and get ready for work. You then spend your day at work and maybe go out with a friend for a drink afterwards. You come home to your pets or significant others, prepare for the next day, and then get ready for bed. Seems simple and easy, right?

Slowly, things start to change. You wake up in the morning but it starts to take you longer to get out of bed. It starts out as just a few extra minutes, and it adds up to 10, even 20 minutes. You get out of bed and your body feels tired. You move just a little slower through your routine. You might skip breakfast because you’re not hungry this morning. You’ll go to work and you’ll find it challenging to get through your day because you’re lacking your usual energy and motivation. You might skip drinks with friends and call for a rain check. You’ll come home to your significant other or pets and hang out with them for a little bit, but then go to bed.

These changes are subtle and happen over weeks, months, even years. Soon, it’ll feel like this is who you are. You’re always a little tired and sluggish. You’re more inclined to be pessimistic and it begins to feel like this is your personality. Everyone around you is happy and laughing. You’re laughing too, but it’s like you don’t think that the jokes are funny anymore. You might feel like there’s a fog and nothing is as shiny or bright as it used to be.

Chronic, low-grade depression, or dysthymia, is one of the most common ailments on the planet and one of the least likely to be diagnosed. A person must experience symptoms for two years to be officially diagnosed with dysthymia, which may indicate why it often goes undiagnosed, because, if a person is dealing with these symptoms for two years, it starts to feel like it’s just who they are.

When a person in good mental health is facing a problem or challenge, they might take action or look for a fun distraction. But when someone with dysthymia is faced with a problem or challenge, they get stuck. “Caught in that drizzly mental weather, [he or she] doesn't seek shelter or buy an umbrella; [he or she] goes on slogging through puddles.”

For years, I thought there was something wrong with my personality. I honestly can’t even pinpoint when things changed for sure because the change took place over a long period of time. One day I realized that I wasn’t having as much fun as my friends. I noticed that I always seemed to be the person to bring my group of friends down with my pessimism. Everything I said, thought, or did somehow had negativity attached to it. I thought it was my personality. I didn’t know how to change it.

In my senior year of high school I was diagnosed with dysthymia and things started making sense. Over the course of two years, I’ve now begun to understand that there is light inside of me; it’s not all greyness and rain. Dysthymia is likely something that I will struggle with for a long time, and it’s difficult to come to terms with that. But between the moments of fog and rain, there are moments of sunshine and love, so I have hope that someday I will no longer have to keep slogging through puddles.

If you think that you or someone you know might be struggling with chronic, low-grade depression, consider consulting a doctor to begin a course of treatment so you, too, can see the love and the light.