For many people living with depression, the most challenging step to healing is the very first one: talking about it.
Now that I’ve seen both sides of the coin, I realize that something that once seemed like an impossible valley to cross was merely a gate I chose to keep closed.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a difficult process, but I dramatized it in my mind.
I occasionally reminisce about the mindset I had in the days before I launched The One Project, an online community where I started to discuss the issues I was facing through photography.
Years of biting my tongue led to a state of uncertainty. I didn’t understand what I was going through. In the end, it was photography that saved my life.
As fear and anxiety filled my mind, I fought to stay silent. I was so concerned that other people would judge me. I believed that such a confession would make me an outcast.
For those unfamiliar with depression and the stigmas around it, the challenge of needing to speak up might seem insignificant or foreign. This is why I am so vocal about my story and those important moments that changed my life for the better (even if they brought on a new set of challenges).
Here’s what happened after I started talking about my depression:
- A weight was lifted and feelings of shame were reduced. When words are unspoken, they can consume you. The anxiety and worry can wear you down. What if someone finds out? This (thankfully) goes away.
- It sparked conversations that brought me closer to others. Old friends and classmates reached out to share their stories. They understood what I was going through and could relate. For the first time, I knew I was not alone.
- My confidence grew tremendously. Not only did I have more strength to handle my recovery, but I was also able to take action and face fears that used to hold me back.
- Once it got outside of my head, I started to understand depression better. Sharing with others allowed me to see outside myself. I gained new perspectives from hearing their stories and learning their outlook.
- I understood more about how my mind and body work. This allowed me to build better habits and routines while reconnecting with my authentic self. If you hide for a long time, you may get used to it and start to feel disconnected from who you truly are. Speaking up and beginning to work through your depression can change that.
- I eventually went to see a therapist, and that helped. I only needed (and could afford) a few sessions to work through key issues. The professional perspective allowed me to work through these issues much faster than I ever could have on my own.
- As I spoke more about the issues I was dealing with, I gained the tools I needed to help others find therapeutic relief through photography. I built a community. However, it began to overtake me, and a new challenge presented itself as I worked to find a healthy balance.
- Some people were uncomfortable with my openness about mental health, and they exited my life. In hindsight, I now see that those weren’t quality friendships anyway. There is still a lot of work to be done to end stigma and propel honest conversations.
- With years of hard work, I gained control and drastically reduced my depression and anxiety — moving toward a proactive state of wellness.
In so many ways, speaking about my depression was a pivotal moment for me. And the lessons I learned are things I’ve been able to apply to other areas of my life.
I’m more aware now, and I’m able to catch myself when I feel too overwhelmed to take the first step and speak up.
Now I know that fear and feelings of helplessness are signs that there is something I need to acknowledge or take action on.
The world has evolved immensely since we’ve needed to be wary of mammal predators jumping out of the bushes. Yet we’re still on alert, trying to protect ourselves from judgment and ignorance.
In reality, we amplify these monsters in our minds. It’s actually much better on the other side.
DEPR-US-NP-00018 MAY 2018