It’s hard not to think of depression as a character flaw. It’s hard not to look around you and see people dealing with the pitfalls of life with a smile on their faces and a determination to keep going and look at yourself with disgust and disdain. There are people sleeping outdoors in freezing temperatures tonight, people who are precariously arriving in new countries hoping for a life away from threat and persecution, there are people sitting next to hospital beds holding their breaths and wishing. And here am I, warm and well fed, but still with mascara running and staining my cheeks, leaving me with semi-permanent dark circles.
Confronted by people I know and people I don’t who show resistance and resilience, bravery and brilliance, I can only look at my inadequacies and feel chastened and small. I sit on the bus at 8 am fighting back tears when all I have in front of me is 3 hours teaching a class. In the evening, hidden in my room, the tears of the day fall for undefined pain that has no reason and no justification.
I wonder if I would think I were inadequate if I had cancer? Or even if I had flu? Unfortunately the stigma of mental illness doesn’t lie only at the feet of an uninformed outside who don’t and can’t understand but it comes from within too, from the person who should know better, from me.
I try not to be but I can’t help it: I am ashamed. I’m trying to be less so and I’m making slow and painful progress but there are setbacks and potholes along the way. One day I would like to be able to casually say “I am depressed” to more than just a trusted few but for now I still see it as something I can’t control but should be able to if only I could try harder.