*Before I start, I want to make sure that you know this is going to be about depression and you understand how it might affect you. I mean it’s in the name but I feel like I should make sure anyway.
This is about my own experiences. Beware, this is a long one.
Life’s a weird thing, especially when you grow up constantly wondering if you’re ever going to enjoy it. When I was a kid, I was always either the weird hyper kid or the weird sad kid. I knew when I was really young that I was not like the people around me. I had a hard time understanding them and agreeing with them because I cared about more than just appearances. My want to be truly happy always backfired because I wanted or expected things to go a certain way and they wouldn’t and I’d get disappointed. Or I would dream about my future life and all these fun things I’d get to do and then realize that I was stuck where I was. I was never diagnosed…but I don’t need a diagnosis to tell me how I feel. I know this now. And I admit it to myself now. But growing up, I never used that term “depressed” because I didn’t think I was depressed.
I thought that the way I was feeling was, in a way, normal, like that’s how everyone else felt, too.
For all those times I felt unnecessarily sad, I did not think it was depression. I grew up in an environment where depression isn’t talked about or even considered. And that’s pretty sad because that means nothing changes. It means that you continue on with your life having bad days or weeks or months and you just accept that as part of your life. You get so used to it, that when you see other people who are happy, you are taken aback.
As if happiness is this unattainable being that you’re running towards but like a dream you can never seem to get closer to it.
It would come and go, which was part of the reason I just thought I was sad. But sometimes it would stay. Sometimes it wouldn’t go away so quickly. I really don’t know the longest it stayed because I never kept track of it. Why would I? But I do know that out of the blurred memories I have as a kid, many of them are of me being sad. It didn’t help that I was shy and afraid to stand up for myself. I’d let people treat me badly and just get angry. And since I couldn’t express myself or talk back, the anger would just steep inside me. Every once in a while it would boil up to the top and I’d surprise those around me who never expected the shy, quiet girl to say anything mean.
And that turned into a whole other spiral of its own where I would blow up on people, then regret it, then blame myself, then get sad again.
I had anger issues growing up, I know that and I’m certainly not proud of it. I liked to hold grudges and I liked to be mean to people who were mean to me. And sometimes I’d be too hostile with my friends and not really see it. The older I got, the angrier I got. By the time I was a teenager I was a cynical pessimist who pretended not to believe in fairy tales. I chose my sad dark reality over any hope of a bright future and I was ok with it. I never put too much effort into anything except my art because I didn’t want to prove to anyone that I was an intelligent person. I did just well enough in school to be good but not excellent. I just didn’t think my time was worth the stress. I could have been a straight A student if I wanted to but I didn’t care. I did what I had to do to pass but I knew life wasn’t all about school and getting a bad grade didn’t affect who I really was or how my life was going to go.
Then I also had this constant dilemma playing over in my head where I really wanted to be a good person but sometimes I did bad things and that would cancel out all the good things I’ve done. I was asking myself how could I possibly be a good person if I make mistakes. So I would default to thinking of myself as a bad person and then it didn’t matter if I was sad because that’s what I deserved. It didn’t matter if anyone noticed because I would just pretend it wasn’t there.
I grew up thinking that I was too sensitive and that it wasn’t ok so I should hide it. So I did.
By senior year of high school I thought I was doing alright. I had made some friends over the last 4 years. Some that I’m still friends with today. I had a boyfriend, which was great because when I was younger, one of my worries was that I’d never have one. I was too shy, quiet, dorky, unattractive. But that didn’t last long though because my first “real” boyfriend cheated on me. My corrupted Mormon boyfriend screwed me over. Looking back at it now, I don’t really blame him much because it was a long distance relationship and we were hormonal teenagers. But at the time, my world collapsed. And it was really the way he acted after that was the cherry on top. But regardless, that threw me into a pretty long period of depression. My grades dropped, I missed school, I’d show up to class with a hood over my head trying to hide my crying face. And that lasted for at least 2 months before it started to get a little better. But it didn’t really go away for a while after.
I won’t go into any details but things really started to change once I got to college. Every year was significantly different than the one before and I evolved a lot faster than before.
Sophomore year was my breaking point.
There were a lot of emotional roller coasters freshman year. My kind-of-but-not-really-boyfriend decided that instead of breaking up with me like a normal human being, he would just ignore me. And so he did. For the next 3 months up… until I finally got sick of it and came up to him to discuss what happened. Turns out he was so overwhelmed with all these females around him, that he just couldn’t be in a relationship anymore and didn’t know what to do. This was literally right when I got to college. Straight up. Day 1 drama. The funny thing is that something similar happened earlier and I told him the choice was his. I never forced him to be with me.
Anyway, besides that, my friend group freshman year wasn’t very reliable except for 1 or 2 people who I’m still close with but it was hard for me to see that and accept it. By the time sophomore year hit, I pretty much only had 1 friend…until I made new ones. And they were all awesome. I realized then that it was meant to happen that way. There was even one strange night when I was at a party with my new friends and ran into the old ones and they seemed almost genuinely excited to see me and surprised at how much fun I was having. But regardless, those were never close friendships from the beginning and I can see that now.
The summer of sophomore year was when things really came crashing down for me. There were a lot of mental and spiritual changes I was going through and did not know how to deal with and the clarity of who my people were and who weren’t really started to hit me. I realized that there were people around me who I grew up believing should be close to me and should help me but weren’t. I realized I’ve always hid who I really was from practically everyone. Meeting those new friends made me see that there were actually people out there I didn’t have to hide from because they truly accepted me for who I am. And I saw that not just with how they treated me but how they treated those around them and for the first time it felt so real.
I couldn’t hide myself anymore.
I came to the point in my life where something needed to change. And I was the only one who can change it. That summer was really tough for me. I hated being back home. I wanted to be back in Binghamton every single day I was in NYC. I got a gig temporarily working for a seamstress but I was still learning how to sew and I made mistakes and I screwed up. But when you are working for someone who tailors clothes for people, you’re not really supposed to screw up. I almost gave up sewing after that summer. I didn’t sew for a couple months after that and was scared to start again. It was incredibly stressful and one day I just told my parents I wasn’t going anymore. I told them I just couldn’t go to work there. They didn’t understand why and I couldn’t explain it. And when that happens, they usually start talking into the void making things up in their heads that make sense to them that are completely irrelevant to the situation.
I think I had two major fights with my parents that summer.
Parts of them I remember clearly and others are a complete blur.
During one of them, we had just left our (at the time) Manhattan apartment and were a few blocks away either stuck in traffic or stuck at a stoplight. I don’t remember how the conversation started but I remember it happened very quickly.
So that year was when I started growing my dreadlocks and my parents (especially my mom) were not about it at all.
(Granted, they did look super crazy then and I didn’t know what I was doing yet but that’s a bit besides the point.)
She started ranting to me about how if I live in her house, I have to follow her rules, and uphold the standards of her friends. Translation: my friends and I like to pretend we’re high class society so you can’t go around looking like a bum. I told her that her friends didn’t mean jack shit to me and that the only people who mattered were my friends and that my friends liked me and my hair and weren’t bothered by it and even liked it.
Then I opened the door and walked out of the car.
I ended up wandering to the boardwalk not too far from where we lived. I was a complete mess. I was walking down the street trying not to cry. I remember I walked past some construction workers who yelled something to me and normally I would just walk by and ignore them but I was so fed up with everything that I looked up and yelled at them to fuck off.
I was on the phone with my friend Bryanna then, who talked to me and helped me calm down.
The other time we were also in the car driving but this time we were in Coney Island either headed to or just finished visiting my grandmother. Similar situation went down. We had an argument and I stormed out of the car.
I went on to wander the Coney Island beach for hours. That was it. That was when everything really came down for me. That day was a huge turning point in my life. I was at this beach surrounded by people but completely alone. I laid down at one point and got lost in thought and cried. I have never felt so alone in my life. Not before. Not after. I couldn’t talk to my parents. I couldn’t talk to my friends. The only person I could talk to was myself.
That was when I asked myself: What’s next? I had two options. I could either come up with some elaborate way to end my life. Or I could keep going. That’s when I decided that nothing mattered. No one’s opinion. No one’s reality. Nothing in the world really mattered.
Nothing mattered but me… and my opinion and my reality and what I wanted to do with my life. And I already knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to make art. I wanted to travel. I wanted to help people. I wanted to help animals. I wanted to help the environment. The only thing left to do was convince myself it was worth it.
So that day I decided that no one and nothing, not even my parents, could stop me from doing what I am here to do. I decided I’m done dealing with society’s bullshit and misconceptions and that I would do everything I can to live my life how I wanted to live it. I was done dealing with assholes. I was done being what people thought I should be. I was done being society’s puppet.
At this point, you probably expect a happy ending, right? Well nothing is ever that simple. Yes, I chose to keep going and yes I chose to do what I love but I still had (and still have) a lot of learning to do. Good thing I love to learn.
But don’t get me started on our education system…a topic for another day.
I got myself over the hump but I wasn’t miraculously cured by any means. I still had to figure things out. Figure myself out. Figure my brain out.
Now, I’m ok most days. I am fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, happier now than I was when I was a kid. But nothing is perfect. I still have days when I’m extremely depressed. The only difference is that I know how to deal with it now, more or less. I trained myself to react certain ways to certain situations, including my own depression. I just try to remind myself that it’ll pass, that it always passes and I pretty much just have to wait it out. I’ve never gone to therapy but I know that I should. And I’ve never gotten any prescriptions to treat it but I spent so much time by myself, I managed to come up with ways to deal with it without anyone’s help through both research and my own experiences. Although help is always appreciated and welcomed.
That is if you know how to help instead of just telling me I’m fucked up and need to do something about it… Newsflash for those who do that! That’s not help. It’s actually pretty harmful. Sometimes help is just being with someone and listening to them without putting in your own input because no one really knows how the other person is feeling and what they need to help them. Don’t be a superhero. Be a friend. Be a decent person. Be a good listener. Your opinions aren’t always wanted or needed. Sometimes all someone needs is a hug and an ear to rant to. That’s it.
So there it is. Now you know a pretty significant portion of me you didn’t before. But trust me, there’s plenty more of that. I am abundant in stories. If you want to know more, feel free to ask. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed?…weird question in this context but oh well. And once again, I am more than open to questions, comments, discussions, etc. Stay tuned and don’t kill yourself. The world needs you whether you know it or not.