“Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now”

-Bob Dylan (My Back Pages)

I’m only 22 years old, but the older I get… the less I judge… the less I realize I understand.

I was in a bookstore last week and I saw a book in the psychology section called “Depression is a Choice.”

Depression is not a choice. It’s just not.

But there are choices involved in dealing with it.. just as there are choices in any illness. A person with diabetes can choose to watch their diet closely, to check their blood-sugar levels regularly. Likewise, a person with depression can choose to do things that will help- working out, going to therapy, surrounding him or herself with supportive people, etc. Yet.. it’s harder to make those decisions when your dealing with an illness that affects your decision making… that when it’s bad enough, you just don’t believe that it can get better.

Mental illness runs rampant through my family. I haven’t been a stranger to it. When I was fourteen it became very apparent that both of my brothers suffered from mental illness- pretty severely. I visited both of them when they were in the hospital.. many times throughout the the last.. almost ten years. I read up on what they were suffering from.. the medications they were prescribed. I talked to them about it. I advocated for them.

Yet until my bout with it in the last few months, I can honestly say that I really had no idea. No idea at all. See, I was really depressed during many stages of my high school years. When I left my hometown and started building my own life away from the things that had weighed me down, and when I succeeded in being content and passionate about what I was doing, feeling happy and looking forward to the future, I concluded that I had been depressed because of my circumstances, my situation.. which seemed very alterable to me. In a way I really did think that depression was sort of a choice.. that if you chose to change your circumstance, you could pull yourself out of it.I had a roommate who seemed to be struggling with depression, and although I hate to admit it, I thought that she just wasn’t trying hard enough, that she had dug her own hole and jumped into it.

Depression certainly can be situational; there certainly are choices involved, but… I was a stable, independent, confident, and generally happy and hopeful person, and in a manner of just a couple months I completely fell from my high horse. I didn’t choose to have this mental illness- whatever it is- and I really don’t think I made any situational choices that led to it (although I did make a lot of bad choices after it started.)

I’ve been making really good choices for the last couple of months, doing everything I could think of to feel better.. and it has still gotten worse. I mean, I am further along than I was right before and after I was in the hospital, but a couple of weeks ago things started taking a turn for the worse. That’s part of the reason I was absent from the wordpress world. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is. Last week I had a breakdown that felt very similar to the one where I initially hit bottom. My low lasted almost the whole day.. and the things that usually helped just didn’t. I can’t describe it other than that it’s just excruciating emotional pain. The good thing is that I was here, close to my family who offers me so much support.

I feel like Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I am trying so hard. I do believe that it will (and has) gotten better.

We all know someone that suffers from depression… yet there is still this huge misunderstanding of it, of all mental illness. Why is that? How could I misunderstand it so much even though I witnessed it so closely?

I’ve become a lot more private about most things in my life. I used to be a lot more open. Once I make more sense of all this, though, I want to be more open about it. There is such a huge negative stigma attached to mental illness. People who suffer from it are almost shunned. People with depression are labeled as lazy… others think, “why can’t they just be happy with what they have? Look at the bright side?” It’s just not that simple.

The older I get, the more I realize that although black and white DO exist, most things in life fall in between. It’s just not that simple.