I know you look at me 98 percent of the time and see this outgoing, bubbly personality that radiates when I walk into a room. My sense of humor is always on point, and I always have some witty comeback to spit out when someone needs to be put in his or her place.
You see me as a role model because I'm strong and independent. I always have my head on straight, or so you think.
There come moments in my life when I just wake up and seem different to everyone else around me. Believe me: I feel like something is off inside me, but I can never find comfort in explaining why this is.
Depression isn't easily explained or ignored. So, just remember a few things:
1. It comes as much of a surprise to me as it does to you.
Whenever my depression wants to show up, it does. I receive no warning.
I get no text message that says, “Hey, I'll be weighing you down starting tomorrow morning, so get ready.”
There are days when everything feels fine. I'm OK with the way my life is.
Very few people irritate me, my stress level is average and I've got a smile on. But the next morning, I'll wake up and struggle to get out of bed.
This is not because I'm physically tired, but because I can't seem to find the energy to carry on with my day.
2. I'm not trying to give you the cold shoulder.
Usually, I show up to work and greet you with a ''good morning,” a smile or a sarcastic comment. It just depends on the day.
But there come days when I walk through the doors and the look on my face is enough to keep everyone at bay. When my depression hits, I find it hard to even fake a smile.
Who has the energy for that? Believe me when I tell you that you probably did nothing to make me angry. I'm not intentionally giving you resting bitch face every time we make eye contact.
I don't mean to make you feel bad.
3. Please don't ask me what's wrong.
So many people don't understand that having depression doesn't always mean having a trigger in life. When you ask me what's wrong, it makes me feel even worse because I don't have an explanation.
Your questions make me feel broken. I have a mental illness that I can't control. Most of the time, there is nothing specifically wrong with me. I keep to myself because I have nothing to say.
4. My emotions have an on-off switch that I can't control.
Most of the time, a person with depression feels nothing at all. So, when you tell me your cat just died and I look at you with an unapologetic face, know that my look doesn't accurately portray how I'm feeling.
I care about you and what happens in your life. But my depression doesn't.
So, when you tell me you got a promotion, met someone who makes your heart happy or are having a great day, forgive me when I make a snarky remark. I'm bitter because my brain tells me to be.
5. I have no idea when this “episode” will end.
Depression doesn't work according to a schedule. Sometimes, it arrives on a Tuesday in January. But it doesn't leave until one Saturday in March.
If I'm lucky, I'm able to hide it long enough for you to feel like everything is OK. But just know that I don't decide when it comes and goes.
6. Please don't tell me to “just be happy.”
Most importantly, you need to understand I don't choose to be this way. I would never choose to live my life this way, especially with the accompanying thoughts that I have.
I never have the option to choose when I feel numb, sad or alone. When you have depression, your mind is in control of your life.
There are many times I feel like hurting myself. So, I do.
There are several times I've contemplated ending my life because it seems easier to do that than live the way I do. Don't misconstrue what I've been saying: I try and remind myself that there are good things and people in my life. But those thoughts are hard to hold onto when you have no energy left, either physically, mentally or emotionally.
So, please believe me when I say I don't choose to have depression. This is not how I pretend to feel when something goes wrong. It's a real mental illness that affects me every single day of my life.
Just never forget that it's not about you or what you've done. It's just who I am.