Grade 8. Grade 11. First Year University. These are the 3 times I have had a major depressive episode in my 18 years. The first time I didn’t realize it was depression, I just thought I was sad. The second time was the beginning of grade 11 right after my grandfather passed away and I wrote it off as just grief that seemed to be lasting too long. My friends didn't understand, they wanted me to snap out of it, stop feeling sorry for myself, stop being so "negative". And I understood where they were coming from, who would want to hang out with someone as miserable as I was all the time? I went to talk to my doctor about medication but I didn’t like feeling like I wasn’t normal and I eventually got better on my own and had an amazing last year of high school.
It wasn’t until this year when I started my first year at Western University that my depression came back. I had started September off hopeful and eager to move away from home and start a new chapter of my life, but once I began my new chapter in London, something changed in me. It was like a light just went out inside me. I’ve never been homesick but I found myself constantly crying when I stared at the same 4 walls of my residence room everyday. I stopped going to classes and slept all day. My friends were worried and tried to encourage me to go to classes and get some fresh air. But what they didn't get was that I couldn't just snap out of it. I was engulfed in my depression, I wanted so badly to just be myself again but I couldn't. A lot of the time I wouldn't even know what was going on or why I was so sad, it would just surface out of nowhere like a cliché black cloud right over my head that slowly covered me completely until the anxiety kicked in and just like that I would be on the ground, gasping for air and unable to breathe, tears falling down my face so fast I couldn't stop them if I tried. I felt so completely and utterly alone, and lonely and unwanted. I was a burden to my friends and I knew it. I was miserable all the time and extremely irritable, always snapping at my parents. It was so difficult to even get myself out of bed in the morning to get food from my fridge, I felt as if there were chains tying me there and in a way I kind of wanted there to be so I wouldn't have to face the world that for some reason seemed so dark and cruel. My marks dropped. I just stopped trying. My life was a constant feeling of emptiness. I felt like I was waiting for something that was never coming. I would cling onto things that weren’t what was best for me just to feel something because I felt so dead inside. It wasn’t until I didn’t leave my bed for about two weeks that my closest friends confronted me and told me I needed to get help.
At first, I didn’t want to believe that I was depressed. I’d always thought of myself as a strong, confident and funny girl. I don’t have self esteem issues, I have a great group of friends that love me, my parents are so supportive and don’t put pressure on me. I didn’t have a reason to be depressed...Girls like me weren’t supposed to get depression. I was supposed to be happy but I wasn’t me anymore. I kept trying to go back to being the old me but I couldn’t even remember who the old me was. I was lost and I felt alone. I drove home and told my mom how I was feeling and she booked me an appointment with my doctor the next day. I knew that I wasn’t just going to get over the way I’d been feeling consecutively for the past 3 months and this time when she suggested medication, I didn’t object. I was desperately in need of an emotional break and I took the semester off of school. As much as I hated to admit it, I wasn’t just going to get through this on my own and that didn’t mean I was weak or lazy, just that there was a chemical imbalance in my brain that was making me feel the way I had been feeling and I needed to balance it with medication and start focusing on myself and my health. At first, I hated that I needed medication just to feel normal and okay like everyone around me. I didn’t want to feel different or be judged but I realized that I wouldn’t let my depression dictate how I lived my life. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Being on medication doesn’t define me, just like my depression and anxiety doesn’t. Everyday is still a battle and some days it’s still hard to get out of bed but the good days have started outweighing the bad ones and I’m starting to feel like myself again.
I am so blessed to have such an amazing group of friends and family as a support system who just want to see me happy and I am so eager to get back to school. Even though it was hard to come to terms with the fact that I am suffering from mental illness, the second I did and reached out for help, it was as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders. In Canada, an estimated 20% of youth are affected by mental illness and only 1 out of 5 of them who need mental health services will receive them. This is due to the stigma attached to depression and other mental illness which prevent people like me from speaking out and getting the help they need. However, you are not alone and there are so many people that are willing to help you and talk to you and give you the support you need to get through whatever it is your going through. Speak up and get the resources you need to start your road to recovery.