For the first time in what seems like far too long, I am beginning to pick up the dispersed pieces of myself and come out of hiding. After about a month’s time, I am rejoining social networks and getting back in touch with friends, though not without some sheepish hesitation and self-doubt.
For so very long, I was emotionally cursing and beating up on myself, lamenting that I couldn’t have had a physical ailment that caused me to need this leave of absence from my job. As horrible as it sounds, it would have been easier for me on so many levels to have a broken bone or even (God forbid) cancer. Despite how understanding my circle of friends, coworkers, and family are, I still feel like it would have been easier to write on Facebook, “I can’t get out of bed and function because I’ve broken my leg,” rather than “I can’t get out of bed and function because I am so profoundly depressed.”
It made me feel more than just a cliched version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It made me want to just hide, full stop. It made me (and sometimes still makes me) feel like something was deeply wrong with me.
When people look at me from the outside in, I believe that, for the most part, they see a sweet and caring personality, someone who loves to cook and enjoys a loving, stable family and fulfilling career. A mom. A wife. A sister. A daughter. A friend. A teacher. Someone who has no reason to ever be depressed. But that is exactly what depression is; it can mask itself so well due to stigma, you never know who is silently fighting this battle (and sometimes losing).
Despite my long-term strong and public stance of not being ashamed of having a mental illness and for acceptance, I am also admittedly worried about what will happen when the time comes for me to return to school. What will the reactions will be from both colleagues and students alike be in the aftermath of my difficult choice? Will they think that I am a weak person? Or a fraud? Or crazy? I can’t predict, but for now, I can only focus on the present and continuing to get better.
And also in spite of this entire situation, despite my intense, scary lows and despite my darkest times, I am able to occasionally remind myself that there are also soaring peaks and highs and precious glimpses of light. If anything, enduring personal adversities has made me more appreciative of those invaluable moments, and also learn to be a more compassionate, empathetic person in the end.
I highly encourage you all to check out this incredibly moving TED Talk that boldly, articulately, and honestly addresses the question, “Why do we need to talk about depression?”:
Peace, love and empathy,
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