On Depression: An Important Confession

depression
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This post has been an incredibly difficult one for me to write. For months, I’ve thought about it and have even written ideas down in my notebook, in my phone, and on post-it notes that get stuffed to the bottom of my purse. Even now, as I’m finally sitting down to write it, I’m thinking about all the other posts I could schedule for tomorrow instead, all of the topics that would be so much easier to write about. Despite all that though, I think it’s important that I write this post, if for no other reason than that I know there are other people out there who it might help, even just as proof that someone else is facing the same thing.

So here it is, without too much preamble and without words to make it sound easier or more socially acceptable: I suffer from depression.

It’s something that I first recognized in myself towards the end of high-school and that, I’m sure, I will never fully stop recognizing no matter how much I wish I could. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy hiding from it, because the word itself scares me and has such a stigma surrounding it. Because to acknowledge it signals weakness for so many people. And because does anyone ever reach a point where they fully have a handle on it?

But all of that is the exact reason why I know it’s so important for me to write about it here (again, because I wrote about depression once before after Robin Williams’ death, without ever acknowledging that I understood on a personal level). Because I know I’ve spent years feeling like I’m the only person out there experiencing it, and I know how much being able to put a label on it and recognize others as dealing with it as well has helped. Because every post or article or slam poem I see circulating online, I know how incredibly difficult that had to be to write, but I also know how much it meant to me.

I’m not here to say that I’ve “beat it” or even that I have tips, because I don’t (if you do though, I’d love to hear them). I’m here because this is a piece of who I am and, for every incredible article or video out there, there are a thousand commenters telling the author that it’s their own fault, that they should smile at themselves in the mirror each morning (because we all know sheer willpower fixes cancer, so why shouldn’t it work on depression too?), or that they must just be weak-willed. It’s 2015, and the overwhelming majority of discourse surrounding mental illness is horrifyingly cruel, and the subject itself so entirely misunderstood.

I started this post tonight with the intent that it would be more useful or, at least, more shareable. Somehow less rambling. But the more I’m staring at the screen debating whether I should even post this, the more I’m realizing that the only way to write this post is how it is right now. That if I’m going to put this out there, it can’t be disguised as anything but what it is: a confession. Because in 2015, we still look at mental illness as something to be hidden.

  • http://www.nomadnotebook.com/ Lizzy

    Firstly, thanks for sharing. I think the more we talk about mental health, hopefully, the more it will be accepted and understood. I’ve suffered from anxiety since a teenager, but it’s only been the last year that i’ve finally been able to pinpoint and accept why i’ve always felt so alone. I really felt like I was the only one struggling with my battles for such a long time, but so many more people have been opening up about their own struggles with mental health that it pushed me to try and understand my own behaviour, and it’s been nothing but a positive step. <3

    Lizzy from Nomad Notebook

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I agree – talking about it puts a face to the illness, forces people to recognize it as something that affects real people who they know, and not just as a stigma to be made fun of or afraid of. I hope this post helps you recognize that you’re absolutely not alone – I know these comments are helping me to realize that, because it can be so easy to feel alone in this.

  • http://clayxmatthewsxfan89.blogspot.com/ Jessica Marie

    I agree with Lizzy. I thank you for sharing and I hope more conversations can be had. I suffer from depression as well as hypothyroidism, that contributes to depression. Hypothyroidism is not really understood either and it’s complicated to treat. Although I haven’t gotten to the point Lizzy experienced, I still can’t understand my behavior – I feel lost. Though, I’m hoping the more I read about mental health and thyroid issues, I can understand things better.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I hope that you’re able to find something that helps you, Jessica. I think that like you’ve started to do, learning more about it is the first step because it helps you to put a name to what you’re experiencing and proves that you’re not alone in it.

      • http://clayxmatthewsxfan89.blogspot.com/ Jessica Marie

        I did medication for a while and I would never go that route again. The medications made me manic; then I was put on bipolar meds and whole other issues cropped up with those. I’m sure medications do wonders for a lot of people, I just never had good experiences with them and I’m not sure if it is because of my thyroid issues. So, instead, I try exercising daily, meditating, writing and try to relax as much as possible.

  • http://www.gorjaeous.com/ Jae

    I have no words, Kiersten. Know that I wish you well, and that I will continue to support you no matter what.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you so much, Jae

  • http://snowintromso.com/ Van @ Snow in Tromso

    I really wish that society can overcome this stigma as there are a lot more people suffering from mental illnesses than people might think. In fact everyone probably has a friend or relative or acquaintance who suffers or has suffered from any mental illness but hasn’t confessed it to anyone for fear of being judged and that’s sad. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks for several years now and it got even worse when I moved abroad. On the one hand I feel completely ashamed of it as I’m an adult who, for no apparent reason, suddenly feels the urge to cry and run away from people often enough which seems so incredibly stupid and childish. On the other hand I sometimes wish I could tell people and be more open about it when I feel anxious when at uni/with friends instead of isolating myself, which probably appears arrogant but I can’t help it. I still think that it’s childish to be anxious/panic about basically nothing whenever I’m in that situation myself but at the same time I know that it’s not. It definitely helps to know that you’re not alone and that you shouldn’t be ashamed and the more you accept your illness yourself, the easier it is to fight the stigma. I hope that it’s that way at least! I still need to work on that. Kudos and thank you so much for sharing your story!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      You’re absolutely right – it’s so much more common than people realize, but that’s hard to see because we don’t talk about it. Which is absolutely understandable, but the more we talk about it, to more we can reduce the stigma I think.

      Please don’t feel ashamed of what you’re experiencing. I know I’ve been there, and still am sometimes thinking why am I not able to just get over this. And it’s an awful feeling.

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your story with me Van.

  • http://www.domesticdysfunction.net/ Tiffany

    As someone who has probably suffered from age 12 on, you’re definitely not alone in this and anyone who tells you “it’s in your head” is someone you need to cut from your life. Don’t ever allow anyone to discount the things you know about yourself. I want to suggest going and seeing a counselor. They do help and they tend to be less intrusive than pscyhologists, additionally they will
    suggest one if they feel you need one. The stigma only goes away by those of us suffering speaking out, thank you for sharing this with the world. If you ever want to talk, feel free to email me or message me. Regards, Tiffany

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Counseling is something I’ve thought more about lately, but I know there are also changes I can make in my life, such as my diet and exercising more.

      Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Tiffany. It really does mean so much

  • http://www.littlemisslulu.net/ Lulu

    You are certainly not alone. The killer combo of anxiety and depression have been kicking my ass for a while. I’m under the impression that mental illness is one of those things that may diminish over time, or you may learn to get a slightly better handle on it, but it never truly goes away. If you ever need someone to talk to, I am here.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you, Lulu. Anxiety is something I deal with as well, but I’m never sure which it actually is or which is worse. Whether I’m staying in instead of going out because of anxiety or because of depression. It becomes difficult to see the difference, I think. I hope that you’re at a point where you have more of a handle on it, as that’s what I’m working towards myself.

      Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words.

  • http://janetteamelia.blogspot.com/ Janette Garcia

    It’s a hard topic to discuss. It’s also very brave of you to share this with others. Even acknowledging it can be hard and sharing with others is something else. It’s not easy to deal with and a lot of people who have dealt with or are dealing with it now can relate, myself included. I’ve tried to pretend it didn’t exist but that made it worse. Like I said, this was brave of you and know you aren’t alone!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I’ve done that too, Janette – and it’s only recently that I’ve admitted to the fact that it’s never really gone away. I mentioned that I first noticed this in high-school, but for years I convinced myself that it wasn’t a problem I had anymore. It’s only recently that I’ve admitted that isn’t true and like you said, that’s so hard in itself.

  • http://www.verilymerrilymary.com/ Mary | Verily Merrily Mary

    Truly admire your vulnerability and willingness to share such a personal thing about yourself. Often times, people applaud the “coolness” or uniqueness of living cross-culturally but a lot of people do not realize the cost it has on mental health. I, too, have been a victim of depression but having mediums to express has help so tremendously. Occasionally, I will have my off-days but, for the most part, the various creative outlets and solid friendships have kept it in check considering that isolation was much of what contributed to my depression. You’re definitely not alone. <3

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I’m so glad to hear that you’ve found ways to combat your depression! Thank you so much for your kind words, Mary.

  • http://texerin-in-sydneyland.blogspot.com.au/ TexErin

    Applause to you for sharing, and I hope you feel a little lighter for getting it off your chest. It is extremely brave to put it out there. I was diagnosed with depression about five years ago and put on anti-depressants. I find that I can share that truth with others, but I don’t share with all of those I’m closed to. (For example, I love my parents dearly, but haven’t told them this part of me). I have been to really dark places, have been able to reach out to a couple of trusted individuals, and they’ve helped. But, often, I find it is a personal battle. I am inspired by your courage. Take care of yourself.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you, Erin. I know that feeling of not wanting to tell anyone you’re close to, because there is still such a stigma and at least personally, I’m afraid of the judgment. It’s almost easier to talk about it here, online. And like you said – depression is a uniquely personal battle. I hope that you’re feeling better than you were five years ago, and that you continue to feel better.

  • http://www.wittytitlehere.com/ Cassie

    Thank you SO much for writing this, Kiersten. More people suffer from depression than a lot of people realize, which is why it’s so important to talk about it. I’ve never consulted a doctor or therapist about depression, but I feel very certain I’ve gone through several bouts over the years (some years were worse than others). It’s so difficult to write or talk about it with other people, but gosh, it sure feels good to get it off your chest. I hope you feel better having done so. xo

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you for reading, Cassie! You’re so right that there are so many people suffering from depression and mental illness in general, but it never gets spoken about because there’s such a stigma surrounding it. I think that’s starting to change though, and I’m so happy for that.

      I hope that you’re able to find something that helps you :)

  • http://bellebrita.com/ Brita Long

    You are so wonderful for being vulnerable and writing about this. At the same time, you shouldn’t feel badly for not writing about it before. It’s a personal topic, and it makes sense to need time to write about something so personal. While I’ve personally never suffered from depression, I’ve known friends who have. Thank you for opening up about your own history with depression.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thanks, Brita. I appreciate your kind words so much.

  • http://www.kati-rose.com/ Kati Rose

    Thank you for being vulnerable and writing about this post. I know it took incredible strength to open up about such a difficult and personal topic. Especially as an introvert. I think the best thing we as human beings can do for things like depression are be open and honest. The more we talk about it in daylight and humanize it, the less it hopefully is a stigma. Many of these things we treat as bad and other are common and normal.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thanks, Kati – it was a difficult post to write, and one that I’ve been trying to write for months. It does help to open up and talk about it though because like you said – it puts a human being to the illness, and also allows you to find others suffering with it too.

  • http://withdignityandcoffee.com/ Kaeleen

    Thank you so much for this.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you for reading Kaeleen

  • http://lanivcox.wordpress.com/ Lani

    I wish I had something amazing to say to you, but I don’t. I can remember times when I didn’t share how much I was struggling because I was ashamed. I consider myself a strong person and it seemed to ask for help or talk about problems I was having was contradictory to being ‘strong’. So, it’s a very good thing that you shared your feelings. Unfortuately, some folks will judge you for it, but other’s will open up – back to you and this can be a good and healing thing indeed. Keep writing.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I so understand that feeling. As much as I hate the stigma that goes with mental illness, I know I feel it myself sometimes about my own struggles, as though I should be able to do something quick and easy about it. You are a strong person though; depression doesn’t change that.

  • http://www.ellierockhill.com/ Ellie Rockhill

    after reading this, I got inspired, and wrote about my own experience… thanks for being brave babe, so i can be brave too.

    http://www.ellierockhill.com/startling-reality-mental-illness/

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank so much for reading, Ellie – and I read your post. I’m so sorry to hear about your own experiences with depression and anxiety.

  • http://whatwecandotoday.wordpress.com Lina

    Thank you for sharing this! I must admit I just started educating myself on mental illness recently and to this point only know two persons who told me about their struggles in person. I am sure there are much more, hiding this part of themselves. And really want to start creating an environment where nobody has to be embarrassed for being different. Whenever I tell someone that I am currently seeing a therapist, people give me these pitiful “Oh, so you´re a damaged person, I am so glad that I am not”-looks. And that makes it even harder to be open. Only witnessing others being open is an encouragement for me. It shows me that whenever we are open, someone else feels less alone and that in itself makes it worth it.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I absolutely know that feeling/look you’re talking about. People look at mental illness as this defect to be pitied or scared of – it’s like any other illness, so I don’t know why people stigmatize it so much.

  • Miu

    You are very brave to share your story with us!
    I think one of the biggest problems surrounding depression is, that most people do not know it is an illness. As you said, cancer cannot be cured by smiling, why should depression?
    But many people do not understand that depression is not simply “not feeling so well right now”.