Content Note: This post contains discussion of depression, child abuse, and death.
This past week's DSMA topic was diabetes and mental health.
This is a hard topic for many.
This is a hard topic for me.
I've had depression for a long time, for many years before I was diagnosed, although, looking back, I would say I've had depression since 6th-7th grade. For reference, other people didn't realize something was wrong until the end of 9th grade. I didn't realize something was wrong until 11th grade. I didn't get the real help I needed until the following summer.
Looking back, I can pinpoint the first time I realized something was horribly wrong, although for other reasons, I didn't do anything about it until much later.
I was sitting in health class, a junior in high school. Boring class, full of busy work, with a teacher who could barely muster to say "penis" and "uterus" when it came time for the giggly sex education part of the class.
But this section of the class was different. We were talking about child abuse and how to recognize it and common misconceptions about child abuse. To illustrate the points, we each had to read a news article.
I don't remember the names or many of the "important factual details" from the story. I remember that a young boy suffered his whole life at the hands of both his parents. I remember that they eventually killed him, shoved him in a refrigerator, and left the fridge, abandoned by the side of a dirt road.
I remember reading this story and feeling nothing. There was no shock, no sorrow, no sickness in my stomach. I remember looking at my other classmates, most of whom I had joked with earlier about a teacher teaching sex ed who couldn't even name body parts without coughing or mumbling, and they were in tears or trying not to puke.
Over the years, I had learned to fake my emotions, so no one would really know how bad I was. I instantly told myself I had to cry. I had to cry and make myself look sick to my stomach. I had to fit in with the rest of the class.
And while I was making myself shed a tear, I remember thinking how messed up this was.
I'm making myself cry over a story about child abuse and a death.
Yeah, but everyone dies. I'm going to die eventually, and other people will have to make themselves cry over my death.
But this is a child. An innocent child.
Why does it have to suck? Why do people have to be assholes?
Because that's how the world works.
And I realized how numb I had made myself. I was so numb, I couldn't even be truly saddened by evil people doing evil things.
And that, for a moment, terrified me. It terrified me how far gone I was.
But I quickly swallowed the terror, allowed a tear to hit my copy of the story, and told myself being numb was the only way to survive.
Many years later, with emotion, reading other people's struggles with depression, like Allie at Hyperbole and a Half, or Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) (On a side note, if you have not read Let's Pretend This Never Happened, go read it. Right now. I have never laughed harder. Never.), reminds me that I'm not alone in the fight. Depression is a dirty, sneaky asshole. It cheats. It deceives. It is a liar.
If depression has you, know that you are not alone, even though it feels like it. Allie has been there. Jenny has been there. I have been there. And while we might not be able to give you the medical help, we can be there for you. We can be moral support, without the shame, without the stigma.