The Darkest year

By Bridgette Hassen

In 2012 I was your normal 16 year old girl. I was a sophomore in high school who was in the top 100 of my class. I was a member of the JV cheer team. I was one of the editors of the school’s newspaper. I was also a competitive dancer outside of school.

My friends would describe me as funny and caring. I was the friend you could tell all of your problems to because I truly cared. I was the maternal figure for many of the people I knew. But, there was a big secret that I was holding inside of me.

I was suffering with depression.

Webster Dictionary defines depression as, “a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way”.  But, depression is much deeper than the medical condition it is described as.

Living with depression feels almost like you are not living at all. You are a shell of a person going through a day to day routine. You pretend everything is alright and you put on a show for all of your friends and family. Some days the façade is harder to keep up compared to others.

There will be many people who will tell you that you are overreacting and that you need to get over it. But, they don’t understand what you are going through inside your mind.  The people without depression who tell you they feel the same will never truly understand. You feel like you are facing the world alone and you are scared and you just want it all to be over. Well, at least that is how I felt for a year of my life.

Depression is still a medical condition, yet some people treat it as if it isn’t. People with depression are going through a lot mentally and the last thing they need is to have it written off as nothing. Depression is a serious medical condition and everyone should be educated on the signs, symptoms, causes, and ways to deal with depression.

The stereotype of a person with depression is so powerful that the obvious warning signs are often looked over. The warning signs for depression vary from thoughts to actual physical symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health describes some signs as the persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings, loss of interest in activities or hobbies that one once enjoyed, and feelings of hopelessness.

The loss of interest is something that can be easily spotted in other people. If they used to be very involved in an activity and they seemed to not want to partake in it anymore without a true solid reason, you should check in with them.

It is important to not only look for these signs on other people, but also look for them in yourself. I was able to figure out what was happening to me by being aware of the signs and noticing them.

One sign that I believe is important are thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. I think this is so important because it is unfortunately the sign you notice when it is too late. I struggled with the same dark thoughts towards the end of that year.

I had gotten to a point where I felt so alone and tired that death sounded like an escape. I had forgotten what death really was and I became almost obsessed with the idea of cheating my way to the finish line.

From my personal experience, you have to really pay attention to the people around you. Sometimes the jokes about death have a ring of truth behind them. I would personally use humor as a huge buffer for myself. I thought that if I could make everyone around me laugh they wouldn’t notice that I never joined in anymore. But, just like other signs, it is all about looking passed the façade.

I was one of the people who tried their hardest to hide it because I did not want to be seen as “sick” or “damaged”. The label scared me more than the actual depression did because I feared that others would look at me differently.

That fear of being seen as the “depressed girl” caused me to keep all of this inside. I kept it in for so long that it got way worse than it should have. My symptoms became so severe that I was missing school more than I had ever did in the past. I would tell my mom I was sick and stay in bed all day.

Those days at home were the scariest to me. Those were the days that I would think about suicide. I would fantasize about how better off everybody would be without me there.

“Why are you even here still? They won’t really miss you.”

“It’s not like your ‘friends’ care anyway.”

“You can’t even do this you are so pathetic.”

These thoughts haunted me until one sunny day in May. It was one day that I had stayed home by myself like I frequently did. I found a band on YouTube called One Direction. I didn’t know it then, but this would be the band that saved my life.

I remember watching one of their music videos and immediately falling in love. I stayed up all night watching all of their “funny moment” videos on YouTube. I soon found blogs on Tumblr that were dedicated to the band.

I got into blogging about them and from there I started to feel myself pick up. I started to actually feel other emotions other than sad and frustrated. I was happy again because they made me happy. I made new friends that I actually wanted to talk to everyday. Obsessing over this band caused me to stop obsessing over killing myself.

One Direction gave me something to be happy about until I could start to create my own reasons. I started to slowly get back into the swing of things. I started to enjoy the things that I had pushed away. I started being around my friends more and I felt myself genuinely becoming myself again.

Finding this happiness slowly gave me the courage to open up to my close friends about how I was feeling. Once I finally opened up to people I began the slow journey of self-recovery.

Many people have the idea that once a person is depressed they immediately see a professional and get on some sort of anti-depressant drug. That is not always the case. Many people, myself included, chose to use “self-help” techniques to help deal with depression.

HelpGuide.org gave some advice on how to deal with depression on your own. You need to talk to people around you that you trust. Whether that be friends or family, you need to open up. I struggled with opening up about this, but once I did I truly began to make progress in my recovery.

Another way you can deal with depression on your own is by taking care of yourself. It is important to eat a proper amount of healthy meals every day as well as getting a full night’s sleep. Staying active in social activates as well as actual physical activity is also very important.

When I was at my lowest point I stopped wanting to be a part of my various activities. But, during my recovery these were a big help for me. I was able to be social and stay active which kept me busy, but not too busy. These were distractions for me in a way. When I was at cheer or dance practice I was so wrapped up in those that I forgot about everything else. This also made it easier to talk about my feelings later because I wasn’t constantly thinking about it, and it made it less emotionally draining.

Another important thing to remember is that you should know when to get help. For some, you can deal with this on your own and you can make a recovery. But, there might be some cases that need extra help.

If you feel yourself staying the same or even getting worse than you should seek out a professional. There is nothing wrong with having to seek help, there are just different ways to get through your recovery process.

One of the most important things to remember is that it truly does get better. You have heard this many times before, I’m sure, but it is true. There are people out there who want you to live long and happy lives. You just have to believe in yourself and remember that this feeling is temporary.

Depression was one of the hardest obstacles I have ever had to face. If I wasn’t familiar with depression I wouldn’t have been able to help myself. Everybody should be educated in what depression really looks like. That knowledge can save someone’s life, maybe even your own.

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