Coming out was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. Honestly it’s still really hard. I say “still” because it’s impossible to just be completely out. Every new person you meet, you need to come out to again, or you need to decide if it’s worth it to do so. I usually can get around that by wearing a rainbow on my jacket. That way if the topic comes up, and they’re surprised, I can just point at the pin, and say it should have been obvious.
That closet has become easier for me to come out of to an extent, but there’s another closet I tend to hide in, and never come out of when meeting people, and that’s the “I have depression” closet. For some reason there’s this stigma behind mental illness, that it’s just something that you have to “get over,” and if you let it control you, that means you’re weak. Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, so like… Let’s talk about it.
I’ve been dealing with depression for most of my life. For the most part, I’m great at hiding it in front of other people. I was an actor my whole life, so I’m more than able to fake a smile, and pretend to be happy. That’s really not the healthy thing to do though, and the first time I actually told anyone about it, was the first time I’ve ever felt truly free. It’s like for the longest time, people would know how exhausted I was every day, but they had no idea why, and now they finally did. Basic tasks can be nearly impossible some days, and generally, I don’t have the ability to do more than a little bit every day, if even that much. Depression sucks away your creativity, your drive, your passion, your energy, and your emotion. Things which take no thought for most people, like getting out of bed in the morning, or walking to the kitchen, or remembering to eat, can become so much harder as a result of this illness.
It’s easy to see that, and think “oh he’s just lazy.” I couldn’t blame you if that’s what you’re thinking. But there’s one key difference between laziness, and inability to function, and that’s desire. I’m not putting off the chores because I don’t want to do them, or because I’d rather be doing something else. I’m physically incapable of doing them, and at the same time, I’m constantly thinking of how much I want to do them. Despite appearances, I’m a neat-freak, and seeing even a few dishes in my sink just upsets me so much, and my first thought when I see that is, “Can I do this task right now, because every part of me wants to.” Depression is not an excuse. In my experience, it’s more of an explanation. When I sit at my piano for 2 hours, and don’t play a single note, it’s not because I’m too lazy to write anything, it’s because just getting myself onto that bench took all my energy, and I no longer have the energy to be creative.
I know I’m not the only person who has had to deal with feelings like this, and one of the best things I’ve ever done was go and talk to a professional about it. Sure, I’ve come up with plenty of coping mechanisms over the course of my life, but there’s no way I can guarantee that those coping mechanisms are actually healthy, and there’s no way for me to know that there isn’t maybe a better way. It’s also extremely healing just to be able to talk to someone about what you’re going through, without needing to fear what they’ll think of you. And at the end of the day, talking to a therapist is the only way to get access to antidepressants which could lead to everything getting better for you.
The scariest thing about antidepressants is that there’s so many different kinds, and it may take some trial and error before they find what works for you. The hardest thing I needed to learn along my journey is not to get discouraged when the first option doesn’t work. I went through several different prescriptions before finally settling on one which worked for me somewhat. I’m still in the middle of my personal journey to recovery, and my only advice to anyone else going through what I’ve been though is this: Being open and honest about how you’re feeling is the best way to start working on getting better, and you will get better.
I feel the best I have in decades, and as hard as it is to come out of that particular closet, when you do, people are way more supportive than you could ever imagine.