Ella s Story
“I’m a firm believer that this depression is a part of my brain chemistry and has always been a part of my brain chemistry. I’ve definitely always felt more prone to emotions than other people. However, it was really triggered two summers ago in July. I was backing out of the driveway to go to work and ran over my cat. I got out of the car and literally watched her die. It’s still really hard for me to even talk about; I felt and still continue to feel responsible. Depression hit me out of nowhere. I kept thinking, I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, and then I started waking up and immediately feeling depressed. And I realized I probably wasn’t fine.
By the time I was diagnosed that summer, I pretty much knew what was going on. It was honestly just relieving to hear someone finally confirm it. It’s so hard to tell people what’s going on in your head. It felt like a blow to my pride to ask for help. But finally, I realized that I had to. Once I told my mom and dad, I remember feeling like I couldn’t convey the seriousness of what I was feeling. Especially as a parent, I think, it’s really easy to underestimate the mental issues your child is going through, because your parents are scared, too.
I have this very vivid memory of telling my mom, ‘Mom, this is in my brain. I feel like I’m going insane. I’m scared.’ So once that finally got through and I got to my doctor and was diagnosed, I just felt so much relief. I knew that it wasn’t over, but I felt like I had hope.
I realized I needed help with my depression when I found that I was scared to be alone with myself. Honestly, it gives you a new perspective on why people so strongly believed in possession before they understood the psychology of mental illnesses. Because it really felt like there was a darkness in my brain. It got to the point where it didn’t matter where I was – at school, in the car, with my boyfriend or my family – I couldn’t stop thinking about hurting myself.
Sometimes, this was because I felt angry or violent towards myself, but a lot of times, it was because I couldn’t feel anything at all. It’s like I wasn’t in control of myself. It got to the point where when I realized I was alone, I would break into tears, because I was truly terrified of myself. When this started to dominate the way that I acted around my friends and family, I realized I needed to make a change.
I’m still on medication and will likely continue to take medicine at least until I’m done at the college. I also work really hard on being open with people when I’m not feeling well. I have always hated talking about emotions and am really not an emotional person, but I’ve come to realize that it’s essential that I tell somebody, because in doing so, I kind of help myself get a handle on what’s going on too. I don’t announce it to everyone or everything, but I have a couple of friends who I feel comfortable telling, and even just the act of talking it out with them is so incredibly helpful.
I absolutely think that there’s a stigma surrounding mental illness. There’s this shame and discomfort that come with it. People don’t know how to handle it, so they just don’t. And then people who are suffering with these things feel like they’re doing something wrong. I remember always feeling like people were going to think I was being dramatic. But if you stop and think about it, that is so wrong that anyone would feel that way. There is concrete scientific evidence that these things are a chemical part of your brain. Acting like they don’t exist is willful ignorance.
We should live in a society where people are encouraged to seek help and be embraced for fighting these things. I always try to be open about what I’m going through. There should be no reason to feel the need to cover up that we’re on medication or going through treatment or feeling sad or nervous or whatever it may be. The only way to break this stigma of shame and discomfort is to talk about it and help people realize that the strength to fight mental illness is something to be proud of.
If there’s one piece of advice I can give to anyone suffering from this stuff, it’s to allow yourself to validate your emotions. Stop being ashamed of what you’re feeling. Stop being worried that you’re an inconvenience. Even when you move past the worst of your mental illness, it will always be a part of your past and who you are as a person. The people who can’t accept that are not worth your time. You deserve to be loved, by others and by yourself, no matter what you struggle with. Even when it doesn’t seem like you will get to that point, know that you will. Don’t cheat yourself of the love that you will someday have for yourself. Fighting is hard, but it will be worth it."