“But your life isn’t that bad.”
When I was depressed, that was the whisper that followed me. It was something people I loved and respected told me when I admitted how I was feeling. I think they were probably trying to figure out where things went weird and why. I think it was partly because they didn’t know how to fix it. Regardless of their intentions, this statement echoed in my own head as I tried to make sense of what was happening to me. It haunted me.
My high school years were an anomaly, I feel, because they were some of the best years of my life. I was involved in activities and clubs, had a healthy social life, got the opportunities to exercise and utilize my skills and my gifts, and had a family and friends and a church that loved me. I didn’t necessarily have all of the answers, but I was safe, and I was comfortable, and I was healthy.
My life wasn’t that bad.
My depression first hit at the end of grade nine, I think, when a friend of mine died and my great uncle died eleven days later. It wasn’t anything long or intense, just a heavy sadness that weighed down on me. It dissipated quickly, and it was a relief when it was gone.
It came back in grade ten, rolling over me. It left me struggling to get back on my feet, struggling for air, struggling for hope. I spent a couple of months where I didn’t care about this life that wasn’t that bad, where I questioned everything I did. I wondered why I was numb. I was desperate not only for it to go away, but also to figure out why it had come in the first place. But how can you make sense of something if there’s no “logical” reason for it?
Depression visited me again in grades eleven and twelve. It hit me at different times of the year for no discernible reason at all. It interrupted this life that wasn’t that bad—that was actually pretty good—and threw me into a tailspin. It left me twisting and turning and not knowing up from down, and I frantically tried to diagnose the problem and figure out the solution as the numbness and the lack of hope plagued me.
All the while, the whisper told me, “But your life isn’t that bad.”
It made it all the worse, I think. The whisper isolated me further, making me think that I was broken, that there was something even more wrong with me than just this depression. I rarely spoke about it because I was afraid of what would happen in the ensuing conversation. How on earth could I tell somebody about it when I couldn’t even make sense of it myself? Anybody I told would surely ask me questions, right? They would want to know why I felt the way I did, what might’ve happened to make everything go lopsided in order to have a better chance at helping to make everything better. But I didn’t have any answers. I felt like nothing I could say would be enough. How could I give people answers when I was still searching for them myself?
The whisper was right. My life really wasn’t that bad. It took me some time to come to terms with it, to realize that it’s OK, and maybe that’s the point. Depression has the ability to come and go for no rhyme or reason, or so it feels. It doesn’t go after any one particular demographic—it appears in them all. Regardless of your race, your nationality, your religion, your sexual orientation, your culture, your family’s income, or any other social factor, depression can appear and worm its way into your life. It doesn’t always have conditions or requirements. Sometimes it just…happens.
Even if your life isn’t that bad.