By Ashley Soriano
Hoof Print (McDonough, Georgia)
I’ve told other people’s stories about what it’s like to have anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD and ADD. I’ve talked about how the stigmas around various mental illnesses should be disbanded. Now it’s my turn to tell my story.
At times, I may find myself awake at 12 in the morning thinking about everything wrong in my life. One thing leads to another and my mind has taken control. Tears follow, and all of a sudden it’s 2 a.m. and I’m left thinking, “What the heck is wrong with me?”
I go down a checklist.
Item one: What I said in class was embarrassing and stupid. Check.
Item two: My home life sucks. Check.
Item three: I don’t have any friends. Check.
Item four: No one would miss me if I somehow vanished into thin air. Check.
My nose is all stuffy, my eyes are drenched. It’s time to go to sleep. And then the process repeats for a solid five to seven days.
Imagine swimming in a 10-foot-deep pool unable to swim without any floaties. You’re drowning and no one can save you but you. It’s a constant uphill battle of needing to save yourself but either not wanting to or not knowing how. It’s a constant mindset of being sad for no reason at all and wondering why you can’t be happy like everybody else.
What most don’t know is that the easiest yet most damning part is creating a facade of happiness. A conversation may arise in which someone asks you “How are you today?” My immediate response: “Good, how are you?”
The truth is I’m not good. I haven’t been good. I’m not good every time you ask me that. Today I’m awful, but tomorrow I might be almost good. I don’t know what I’ll feel like a week from now. However, I do know that there’s a cycle, and all my feelings–happy or sad– are temporary.
What I’m writing about is depression. Ya know, the term kids these days throw around? “I’m so depressed because my prom dress doesn’t fit” or “This song is so depressing!” That word hits close to home for me. A song isn’t depressing. It can be sad, but it’s not depressing. You’re not depressed because your prom dress doesn’t fit. You’re upset or temporarily sad, but you’re not depressed.
Depression is defined as a state of feeling sad. Symptoms include anxiety, apathy, hopelessness, inability to feel pleasure, sadness, weight fluctuations, insomnia and fatigue, among many other things. For me, depression is more than “a state of feeling sad.” It’s never ending, it’s draining and most importantly, it’s lifeless. Sometimes you’re drowning, and other times you’re trapped in a dark hole with no ladder to escape.
I see laughter in the school hallways, joking among friends, carelessness in the air. I often ask myself, “Why can’t I be like that?” I have to remind myself, however, that just as I often put on a facade, many other people do as well.
My best friend who appears full of jokes and laughter suffers from depression. Shameem Momin, senior, battles this mental illness. She has chronic depression, and for her, “…it’s kind of like having this fog that surrounds me, and sometimes I can see through the fog with no issues whereas other times the fog surrounds me, and I can’t even move.”
This life of the party, comedic girl smiles for everyone because “people don’t understand how or why you feel the way you do and the worst part is you don’t either, so it’s easier to pretend to be happy than to try and explain it to anyone.”
Momin has experienced every depressed person’s worst nightmare: a close friend or family member telling her it’s all in her head. A friend of hers said, “I just think its stupid how people use depression as a cop out… it’s not even a real thing.”
Her older sister also questioned her depression. Momin stated, “…to feel like even my own sister couldn’t see how broken I felt was hard.” She responded to her sister’s skepticism by saying, “Looks can be deceiving, my friend.”
Some members of the Hoof Print also suffer from depression. Ellie Chandler, sophomore and staff writer, shared her story. Her mom passed away when she was young, and her stepmom treated her poorly. Often, traumatic events such as these can contribute to an impending feeling of sadness otherwise known as depression. But she also recognizes that it’s genetic. Chandler said, “People can forget that depression can just be a chemical imbalance and inherited.”
Chandler added, “I just wish people wouldn’t make it seem like depression is just something someone is being dramatic about. It is something that people can’t help, and a thing that they themselves need help with.”
At least three other Hoof Print staff members revealed that they, too, have depression. Although they did not want to be named, it is important to realize that this illness is common. It’s more important to realize that these are true feelings people feel and that they aren’t making it up.
One staff member wrote a poem about what it’s like to have depression. Some of the verses include:
“It’s black stains on bed sheets; rocking back and forth sobbing as you lose your mind
It’s sleeping for hours, but waking up still tired
It’s wondering how this detrimental disease was ever acquired…
Depression is wanting to kill yourself but realizing you’re actually dead…
That’s my final plead
Before I lose my sanity…”
Anyone with depression is asking for saving. Even in the most silent ways.
For Chandler, her aunt is her light that attempts to bring her out of her darkness. For Momin, she immerses herself in activities, such as walking in the park, participating in the Henry Players and listening to those who share her story. For me, my happiness is my pets, my boyfriend Daniel and most importantly the encouraging thought of what my life can be if I continue to work on myself.
While I often say, “I’m fine,” I’m really asking someone to save me, and although depression is lifelong, I realize that it can improve. Ellie, Shameem, the unnamed Hoof Print staff member and I all agree we can’t give up. We’ve all committed ourselves to sharing our stories in hopes to bring about awareness for this mental illness and to disband the stigma surrounding it.
Depression is a real thing. It doesn’t just go away at the blink of an eye. There is medication that can help ease the unwanted feelings brought upon by a chemical imbalance, but at the end of the day, it hovers over the heads of those who suffer from it.
My final plea is that those without depression don’t discredit the feelings of depression’s victims.
Photo Credit: Anton Repponen