Life under a dark cloud

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Life under a dark cloud

Shannon Stroud,
Metro Editor

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May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and writer and Vlogger, Ari Eastman has created a video that asks viewers to openly talk about mental illness by using the hashtag “ImNotCrazy” on social media.

In her video, Eastman explains that there is an ongoing stigma about mental health and this month she wants people to feel empowered to talk about those below the surface issues like depression and anxiety.

So let’s talk about depression. According to the Washington School of Medicine, some form of depression affects an estimated 17.5 million Americans, and two-thirds of people suffering from depression do not seek the necessary treatment. That means: one in ten Americans is affected by depression, according to Healthline.

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I became a high functioning ‘sadaholic’— I told myself as long as no one knew what I was feeling then I’d be okay.”

— Shannon Stroud

I am one of those lucky one in ten.
I call it my morning blues, my late night weepies, or my grievances. I’ve called my sadness a lot of things because to be honest, telling people that I struggle with depression, well it’s incredibly depressing.

But at the ripe age of 16, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It’s not that I woke up one morning and all of a sudden I had this overwhelming sense of sadness, instead it was a slow decline of losing interest in different things that I used to love.

My depression took away sports, after school activities, friendships and undiagnosed at the time I didn’t understand why.

Not only did I not understand why I was so sad, I also felt guilty for feeling that way. I grew up in a healthy home, with a loving family, and amazing friends but then for no reason, everything around me that once filled me with joy made me feel empty – and I was so ashamed.

The shame that I felt kept me distant from my family and afraid to open up. How do you tell the people who have loved, cared and provided for your entire life that you can’t think of a single happy thought?

Because of that guilt, I learned to keep my depression a secret. I would go through the routine of daily life, feeling numb. I would sit in class, pretending to learn something but on the inside I felt like there was a dark cloud over me that made everything feel pointless. I became a high functioning ‘sadaholic’— I told myself as long as no one knew what I was feeling then I’d be okay.

I knew the thoughts that I had weren’t me; they weren’t who I was. It was like my brain was split into two, one side was the old me, and the other side was the black hole filled with worry, self-doubt, self-hate, anger, and frustration. Because I didn’t know how to rid myself of it, I decided to hide it. If it weren’t for my mother I would have never gotten help for my depression.

I thought I was doing a good job hiding my pain, but sometimes you can’t hide from a mother’s intuition — one Saturday morning I woke up next to a letter from her on my bed. In her letter, she told me that she watched me change over the last months and that she wanted to help pull me out of it.

In her letter she constantly told me she loved me and wanted to help me find happiness. While her letter didn’t fix my depression overnight, it did start a much-needed conversation about my options to battle my demons.

My road to recovery started with opening up and admitting that something wasn’t right in my life. After talking to my mom we decided the next step for me would be therapy. Starting therapy was scary because I was afraid I was too broken to be fixed.

I cried my entire first session. It was so cathartic to talk to someone who wasn’t a major stakeholder in my life. It was a huge relief venting to someone who I couldn’t disappoint. Plus, my therapist only had good intentions to help me get better.

I stopped going to therapy a year ago, not because I’m better, but because I am better equipped to handle the world. Therapy was more than just talking about how I was feeling, it was learning about the tools I needed to understand when it’s the depression talking and not me.

My depression isn’t gone; I still fight my morning blues or late night weepies every day. It’s something that I’ve accepted as part of my life but unlike before, it no longer debilitates me and I now know that #ImNotCrazy.