Hey, I’m Ryan. I’m here to tell you about how as twenty-somethings and college students, we all face our fair share of problems.
For some of us, our problems come in the form of school, finances, relationships, etc. For others, mental illness is one of them. However, it is often overlooked due to the heavy stigma that comes with them. The stigma I’m going to write about today is associated with depression, but there is stigma attached to illnesses across the mental health spectrum. Many of us have fallen victim to this stigma by choosing to stay silent about depression rather than being judged by others for our problem, or for standing in solidarity with other people’s problem. Well, I am here to show you that dealing with depression does not have to be a battle you fight alone, nor does it matter what others think about it.
Now, I am not a professional. I do not study mental health, and I’m not a psychology major. I’m just a guy that’s dealt with depression, alone for the most part, and who wants to help others avoid dealing with it the same way.
The first thing to know about depression is that everyone experiences it differently.
Most people associate it with just feeling sad, but it’s much more than that. I personally felt tired all the time, had no appetite, no motivation, and I laid in bed for hours. For me, depression acts like a blanket that covers everything that makes me happy, and makes it disappear. My normal range of emotions shrinks down to just one feeling, (which is ironically) numbness. It’s like, I know I want to feel happy, but that the same time, that part of you is just numb and unusable. It can make me feel totally helpless and lost.
Depression, at least for me, can have a way of making me feel totally isolated from my surroundings. I might go to my classes, but not participate. I might withdraw, and hide away as best as possible. The reason why I do this is that it’s easier to isolate myself than have everyone know I’m depressed.
Because people seem to pin other people who have depression as crybabies and whiners, or suggest that they only act this way for attention (as if anyone would want to feel depressed). The idea of being told by someone that I’m “just faking” my emotions makes me feel even worse than before. More isolated than before. This is stigma at work. This is society’s feelings about what I go through making it harder for me to get better. The important thing to realize is that depression is way more common than you may think. In fact, around 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. So why do so many people try to claim it’s not real, or not important?
It is real. and it is important. So you can help someone who is suffering through depression by making them feel like their struggle is meaningful.
So, now that you know you can help someone with depression just by treating them like a regular human, how can you take more steps?
Well, there are several things you can do. The first thing I recommend is to be a person that your friend can talk to about this problem. Be someone who will be there for your friend when they’ve hit a wall and feel like they can’t go on anymore. You can help them to feel sane and grounded. I personally do not believe I would be here to this day if it were not for my friends who helped me.
The next thing I recommend is encouraging professional help. I know that therapy may not be something the person wants to do, but it is so helpful and rewarding for the person. Plus, it can make a big difference to know someone supports the idea of them going. I was adamant about not going to therapy because I wanted to solve my own problems. However, I eventually realized that I proved I was stronger by swallowing my pride and asking for help. It’s not strong to hide by doing it all on your own, badly.
Plus, people literally chose their occupation so they could help other people get through issues just like this. It’s their JOB to help you. Tell the person that they will not have the answers to their problems, but they can certainly get them on the right path to finding the answers for themselves, and you’ll be there with them every step of the way.
Also, if they are prescribed medication, know that is this not an instant cure for depression. Your friend will not bounce back to “normal” after taking their first pill. It helps to balance the chemicals in a person’s body so they can work on controlling their emotions.
My last piece of advice goes out to the people with depression themselves.
It might sound a little crazy, but “fake it until you make it.” Once you’re taking the right steps like using your support system, going to therapy, and/or taking your medication the way you’re instructed to take it, you should try your best to live your normal life, even if you still don’t feel better. When I started medication I literally forced myself to get out of bed, even though I wanted to stay there. Then later, I would feel a little better instead of feeling totally helpless like I would have if I had stayed in bed all day. So, go to your classes, go for a walk outside, do homework, etc. Just do everything that you would normally want to do, and leave your depression to the meds and the professionals, even if it is for a brief time.
I hope some of you found this post helpful. If not, I hope that you find the answers you are looking for soon. If I can make it though, anyone can. Remember that you are never alone, and that you can do anything. Just believe in yourself.