Lately, I have come to terms with reality -- I have depression and social anxiety.
For so long, I kept that part of me a secret, never telling anyone unless it was absolutely necessary, and not really wanting to accept it myself. I rarely spoke about it with even my family, some of whom I'm sure are still completely unaware that I deal with these mental illnesses every day of my life. When I do tell most people, especially those I've met at college, they look almost shocked -- in utter disbelief that this girl who is constantly trying to smile or blasting obnoxious yet happy music and partaking in one of many frequent solo dance parties could be anxious around other people.
That is because I do not want people to know the other side of me -- the side that wants nothing more than to go home, lay in bed, and do some lazy activity like reading a book or watching a movie. I want to appear to be happy because that is what society wants; we all need to live those picture perfect lives that are plastered all over social media. So when I am out socializing, I do whatever I can to wear my smile... even if it may not be entirely sincere one hundred percent of the time.
Now, just because I have depression, it does not mean that I cannot be happy. I can. I am genuinely happy a lot. But there is also a constant nagging voice inside my head telling me I wish I were more social, I wish I knew what to say right now, I wish I were somewhere else, I wish... I wish... I wish... And it's an exhausting part of my day to day life that I have come to expect every time I am interacting with someone.
It is this nervousness always haunting my thoughts that makes me slow to reply texts. I don't know what to say, and I overthink it until I finally give up and sometimes don't reply at all. I know it is rude. I know it's not something a good friend would do. And I know there is nothing I can truly say to make up for it. And for that, I am sorry.
It is that voice is my head that sometimes makes me irritable while I am at some sort of social gathering, both big and/or small. It's not you. It's literally me. It is me hating the little things about myself that I cannot change. It is me feeling jealous that other people are able to hold a conversation so easily, while I am forced to stick to small talk about the weather and other "safe topics." And for that, I am sorry.
It is that sudden pang of anxiety that comes after I've gotten ready far too early for a night out, causing me to text some lame excuse as to why I suddenly cannot go. I can promise you my brother does not have that many lacrosse games and my mom usually does not just spring family dinner on me. I simply got scared of the prospect of having to go outside the house, and did not mean (or want) to blow you off. And for that, I am sorry.
It is the fear of not knowing what to say that makes me seem not one hundred percent invested in our conversations. I wish I could give you better advice -- really I do. I wish I didn't let myself drift because I felt like I could not keep up with the rest of the group. And I wish I had been honest right away instead of hiding my mental illness and making everyone wonder why I acted the way I did -- why I dropped so many people seemingly out of no where; why I stopped replying to texts; why I stopped going to parties; why I stopped wanting to do things with people I was not completely comfortable around.
Being open and trusting is such a vital part of friendship, and I'm sorry if this article is how some of my friends are finding out about that part of me I have tried to keep hidden. But there is such a stigma surrounding depression and anxiety that sometimes it scares people away. I know that first hand, having experienced too much rejection within recent years that sometimes simply thinking about it makes me anxious. And the worst part is that it came from people who I had come to believe could handle knowing the truth. Instead it scared them away.
For those of you who know the truth, have chose to stick by me, and accepted that I may not text you back right away or always reach out to you first -- I am apologizing to you too. More than anything, though, I am thanking you. I am trying to work on these issues because as I said, I have come to terms that my depression and anxiety are a part of who I am. And I am thankful that you have accepted it as well. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for sticking around when I haven't been the best friend in return. Thank you for caring. And I'm sorry because you're still stuck with the girl trying to beat her depression by plastering a smile on her face (it's genuine if I'm with you, I promise), blasting her obnoxious yet happy music, and having an embarrassing emergency dance party.