I am not writing this because I observe so many of my Facebook friends doing it or because it’s the “cool” thing to do right now. However, seeing the many “voices” on my Facebook newsfeed has helped me build the courage to speak openly about my experiences with depression and anxiety, and encourage others to do so. There is always help, you just need to ask.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that it started. Sometime during high school I realized that I was unhappy. It felt as though no matter how many friends and family surrounded me I was always feeling like the odd one out. Growing up in a Jewish household and surrounded by Jewish friends has never been attributed to this feeling. For most of my life, I was the odd one out at a Jewish school. Not because I wasn’t Jewish, but because I didn’t look it. I was an adopted Jewish-native girl in a private Jewish school. When I would try to evaluate in my head the reasons why I always felt left out, this was not one of them. From starting my academic experience in a Jewish school in grade 1 to finishing my high school career at a Jewish high school, I was surrounded by the most amazing friends that would never purposely do anything to make me feel bad in any way.
To my friends, I was the loud and funny member of the group who was always happy. As I sat at many lunches surrounded by friends I always thought to myself how they would always be better than me and how I will never be enough for them. I always felt like everyone in my group of friends had each other, but I had no one. Many times in high school I would feel feelings of intense depression and anxiety building up inside of me. This would usually result in me crying in the washroom until they went away. I never let my friends see this side of me because I felt ashamed to be feeling this way. I graduated high school with this feeling inside me, not letting anyone know of it.
As my first year of university began, I had no trouble with making new friends and being social, and my feelings from high school had subsided. I still found myself in isolation from others and wanting to be on my own. I found myself doing things on my own that others would usually ask their friends or roommates to do with them. The only thought I had given to this was that I am just one of those people who doesn’t mind being alone. As my first year of university ended I found people making comments that I hadn’t formed any real friendships and this made me start re-evaluating myself. I had once again started to feel like the odd one out that was not needed by others.
During my second year of university I felt my feelings of not being good enough for my friends and family returning once again. I found myself unable to speak with any of my friends, whether at school or at home, about my feelings. For many nights, I would cry alone in my room filled with a house of five other roommates. Despite knowing that I had a big group of friends that always thought of me as outgoing and funny, I constantly felt as though I didn’t belong and that I was never who they would choose to hang out with. Due to this feeling, I started to push people away, including my boyfriend.
In my third year of university I felt my depression and anxiety worsening, despite being even closer to my same group of friends. I found myself crying almost every night, followed by intense anxiety attacks. I learned to confide in the boyfriend that I had pushed away for several months. I always found myself crying late at night to him over the phone and trying to explain my depression and anxiety. Whenever this happened it would make him stressed and upset. I knew this wasn’t because of who I was or what I felt, but because he didn’t know what he could do to stop me from feeling this way. Every time he would tell me that I should talk to my parents and find a professional to talk to about my feelings. Every time he said that I thought about what my parents would think of me, which was the reason for why I was never able to tell them about how I felt. One Saturday afternoon, while I was away at school, I found myself crying on campus, and less than an hour later on a bus heading home to Toronto. I remember calling my mom from the bus telling her I would be home for the weekend because I had an anxiety attack and needed to come home. Once I arrived home I knew I could tell my mom everything I had been feeling. That weekend, my mom did everything she could to get me the help I needed. I will always be grateful to have such an amazing mother in my life. From that point on, I began to receive the support I needed to start my recovery. I began to take medication, which I was initially ashamed of, but as I began to open up about it to others I saw that no one treated me differently because of it.
Although I am still learning to speak comfortably about my depression and anxiety, I know I can confide in my friends and family because they will always be the supportive individuals I have always known. I encourage anyone suffering from mental illness to speak about their experiences and know that doing so is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of bravery. There is always help, you just need to ask.