I often wonder how people react when they find out a loved one has passed, not because I’m creepy or weird or desire for people to die, but because when I first found out that my dad had died, the first thing I asked for was a book. I’m fairly certain that this is not a common request from someone who just found out 30 seconds prior that their father had died, which is why I’m always so curious what other people desire when they get devastating news. I desired words. Words were my first love and my ultimate comfort and I wanted to read the pain away. A book was the only thing I wanted.
Words had always been my safe haven and writing offered me an escape from the world I was in and the ability to create the world I wanted to be in. So, you can imagine how much of a surprise it was to wake up one day and have no desire to write. Words were my first love, writing was my second, and suddenly all my love for both of them had disappeared.
For a while I thought I had just lost interest. I no longer wanted to write, it was that simple. Blogging now sounded vain and stupid, reading felt like a chore, words looked like complicated equations rather than the poems and works of art they used to be, the blinking black line on an empty “Pages” document now seemed daunting rather than an opportunity to create.
I no longer enjoy writing or reading. It’s thats simple. I just need a new hobby, there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s that simple.
Maybe I should have developed a new hobby because being a writer allowed for me to become insanely talented at being introverted and predominately near sighted from staring at a keyboard all day (plus, nobody warns you about the amount of paper cuts you’ll get from being addicted to books) but developing a new hobby was not the answer to my problems. It was not that simple.
I didn’t realize the complexity of my problem until I started to see other blemishes in my personality that were never there before.
I used to be a morning person, I now wanted to sleep until 3pm and then take a nap at 4pm.
I used to love to do my makeup and dress nice, I now wanted to see how homeless I could look before people started to come up to me and offer me their spare change.
I used to have to tell myself not to eat the entire box of pizza in one sitting, I now couldn’t even eat 2 slices if I was held at gun point.
I used to want to talk to people 25 hours a day if it were possible, I now considered a 5 minute texting conversation with my mom too much socialization.
I used to think the summer night sky was the most beautiful thing God ever created, I now found it vast and empty and cold and hopeless.
I was now vast and empty and cold and hopeless.
It was not that simple.
For a long time all of these changes to my personality didn’t seem like a huge deal. You’re just growing up, discovering who you are, your personality and preferences are just changing, you’re learning to love new things.
But what happens when you don’t love at all anymore? Is that just a part of growing up? The world turns you so cynical that you just invert and completely lose the ability to love the things you once did? The people you once did? The places you once did? No one ever told me that’s what growing up would be. None of the books I read warned that “discovering who I am” would do this to me. This was not me “growing up” and learning who I was. It was not that simple.
After 3 years of being stripped of everything I loved about myself, of being told it was just a phase and I would grow out of it, to suck it up and power through, to just pray and everything would get better, to cheer up, to be grateful for what I had, to stop being so down, to stop ignoring your calls, to answer your texts, to come to your party, to try to be like how I was 3 years ago because she was much more fun, I finally admitted to everybody and to myself that it was not that simple.
As a society we have degraded mental illness into stereotypes and pharmaceuticals. We have labeled it as being a trend, something that people admit to having because they were “looking for attention” rather than looking for support. We look at those who lose their lives to suicide as cowards rather than victims. We tell people who suffer from anxiety to just calm down and those who are depressed to just cheer up. We label those who take medications as weak while the ones who aren’t medicated are unstable. We use the words crazy, insane and psycho to describe those in mental health units but we should being using the word “brave” because they were the ones who weren’t afraid to get help. We have labeled mental illness as something that is simple, when it’s not.
I had to ask myself what was holding me back from doing what was best for my health and asking for help. I had allowed society to label me, to put me in these boxes. I would no longer be Danielle, the ambitious, free willed, cat loving, hard working, book loving, pizza eating, writer. I would now be Danielle, the girl with depression.
I was so afraid people would only see my illness rather than all the other good qualities I possessed. I didn’t want to be labeled, to be judged or to be criticized on the choices I made to get help and get better and for 3 years I let this fear run my life.
I had to ask myself what was more important, my health or what the world thought of me? I picked myself. It was that simple.
It’s taken me 3 years too many to speak up and finally ask for help. In that time I gained 40 pounds, walked away from job opportunities, school opportunities, lost friendships and loved ones. I lost some of the best years of my life because I was letting mental illness control who I was and I was too afraid to talk about it.
The #BellLet’sTalk movement means so much more to some people than just raising money and awareness. The #BellLet’sTalk movement allows some people, like myself, to speak up and get their lives back from mental illness. So while you tweet and text and comment and Instagram and Facebook #BellLet’sTalk, remember that it’s not just a hashtag because mental illness is not that simple.