Today is World Health Day, the highlight of the World Health Organization's year-long campaign to encourage people with depression to seek and get the help they need, first off, by having a simple conversation and talking about it.
Depression has increased over 18% since 2005. More than 300 million people currently live with depression, making it the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide.
My own experiences with depression have taught me how important it is to open up.
When I finished college I was another kid with no idea what to do, and after a poorly planned Euro-trip with an older Czech guy I'd met during a study abroad (who told me he was in a relationship as soon as I stepped off the plane in Prague), I ended up at my Dad's house in Milwaukee, paralyzed by a now-total blank space that I thought was going to be my future.
I felt my friends from college had moved on and were somehow already rooted in new lives. I felt stuck, with one foot in nostalgia and the other lost in an overwhelming fear of the future.
I couldn't sleep and didn't want to get out of bed, but I was too anxious to relax. I felt this physical heaviness that seemed to literally keep me from taking any step that might make things better.
The cruelty of depression is partly that the more depressed we feel, the less we want to do the things that make us feel better. We feel alone. We feel we can't be helped, we feel that it has always been and always will be. I know I felt that way.
But how do we know if we're depressed? We can experience a loss of energy, change in appetite, change in sleeping more or less, anxiety, reduced concentration, indecisiveness, restlessness, feelings of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness and even thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
What's more, stigma associated with the disease leaves many people feeling ashamed and even at fault their condition. So, rather than seeking help, people often turn inward and shut down or turn to drugs or alcohol, which makes things worse and even reinforces a sense of isolation.
For me, I know the first steps toward getting better definitely came in the form of conversations. I talked to friends, to a therapist and to my mom. Through their kindness towards me, I was able to finally start being kind to myself.
I started listening to my body, developed a fresh devotion to yoga and meditation and started to go after my passions.
I'd always wanted to be a journalist but was afraid I wouldn't make it. It took a pretty heavy dose of internal grit, boosted by support from those close to me, to decide to follow what I loved.
It was only when I started to listen to myself and started to go for what I truly wanted rather than letting other voices dominate me, that I moved through the depression and into my future.
Depression has become a veritable epidemic. Millennials are experiencing depression at rates higher than any previous generation.
If you or someone you love is depressed, help is available. Talk to someone you trust: a friend or family member, a licensed therapist or even someone from your religious community.
If you feel suicidal or are otherwise in crisis, you can connect with a trained crisis counselor 24/7 by texting CONNECT to 741741 or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Keep the conversation going on social with #LetsTalk.