This week is Teen Suicide Prevention Week.
I've been suffering with depression since I was a teenager and I understand the confusion and complete exhaustion that comes with not understanding your own sadness. One of the worst things about depression is not realizing that you have it until you are at the bottom of a pit that seems far too deep to ever crawl out of.
This week, spare some time to think about mental health. Talk about mental health.
Your own and that of the people you love. Talk about depression, bi-polar disorder, OCD. Admitting that you might not be in control of your own well-being is really scary, but asking for help is liberating and could potentially save you from a lifetime of the extreme loneliness that depression forces upon you, or even save your life.
If you think that someone you know or love might be suffering from depression, it's never a bad idea to talk to them about it. Sometimes just the idea that someone can tell something is really wrong is a huge relief to a person who is using all of their energy reserves to try to seem normal. Having someone to talk to pulls you back to reality, where there is help and where you can find relief.
I wrote this post last year, about depression and what it feels like. If you've ever felt confused or alone, like you might be the only one who thinks that life is just far too terrible and exhausting to have to endure, read it. If you've ever secretly thought to yourself "Is depression even a real thing, though?", read it. If you have a mom, dad, child or partner who suffers from depression, read it.
Ten Things I Know About Depression
1. Stop feeling guilty. Because you grew up middle class and your parents are still married and no one ever beat you when you were a child you think you don't have the right to suffer from depression? Stop. Depression is not a feeling. It is a disease. You didn't choose this. You don't have to look at your life and feel guilty for not connecting to it.
2. Even at the very worst of times, when you can't even imagine that you will ever feel normal again, you will. It is absolutely and completely ok to feel the way you do. Just know that you don't have to suffer forever.
3. Even at the best of times, when you think that you probably don't need your anti-depressants anymore and you can probably just stop taking them, don't.
4. Sometimes telling people about your depression will really help them to understand you and will help you to feel more in control. Would you feel ashamed to tell people if you had asthma or diabetes? Depression is no different from any other health problem. Accept it and make a point to educate others.
5. Like my mom always used to tell me, "It will all come out in the wash". When you think things are too bad and you are too sad and nothing will ever be fine again, remember that it will all come out in the wash.
6. Depression can be hereditary, so if you've been struggling to find a medication that works for you, ask your doctor if you could try out what your parent/family member has taken. In my case, what worked for me was what worked for my dad.
7. Suicide just isn't an option. Call someone. Leave the house. Find your neighbour and borrow some sugar, wash your hair, talk to your cat, cry cry cry it out - do whatever you can do to occupy your mind and body until that feeling of all-consuming desperation subsides long enough for you to find help.
8. Don't let people's uneducated opinions freak you out. People are largely still too scared to talk about depression. Loads of them still think of it as "crazy". Don't let that isolate you. Be the person to talk about. Let's normalize it. So many people suffer from depression that there really doesn't need to be a stigma attached to it anymore. If you suffer from depression, tell your friends. If you're going through a low patch, talk to the people you love about it.
9. No one is better than medication. No matter how much you resolve to "live happy", sometimes your brain just doesn't do what it is supposed to do and there is no shame in that. You can run until your feet bleed, read self-help books until your eyes fall out, but that chemical in your brain isn't going to make itself. Don't waste all your energy on trying to not need medication. It's just not worth it.
10. That said, living a healthy lifestyle does help. Not taking drugs and getting enough sleep and staying active will definitely help you to stay positive and occupied during the low patches. Obviously drinking yourself to sleep is easier, but it's a lot more dangerous. Don't be stupid. Don't play with your life.
Educate yourself. Understand depression. The more you understand about it, the more you should talk about it. People are scared to talk about depression because they don't understand it. But it's not some kind of mystical beast. Visit SADAG's website to read up about various mental health issues.
If you think someone you know or love is suffering from depression, send them this post. It's not an insult asking someone "Are you ok? I know you have been really down recently and I want you to know that I care about you. Let me know if you want to talk. I found this blog post and I thought it was really interesting. Wash your hair, I'm coming to pick you up for coffee."