An Open Letter to the Person who Doesn’t Believe in Depression

My name is irrelevant. My story is a blip on the radar of the world. But, to me, it’s all I have. I was once like you. I didn’t believe in depression. To me, it was a word people used to over-exaggerate tiredness or loneliness or sadness.

Now, depression is something I am quite familiar with. It’s not a light switch that can be turned on and off to elicit sympathy. In fact, I hate sympathy. It’s too close to pity for my comfort.

I grew up in a family that said if you were “depressed” then you should try going outside, play in the sun, take more vitamins, do more things. I’m a very pale person, so I took that advice to heart and I did. I started taking vitamins and going outside more even though I hated it because I burn like a ripe crispy tomato. I did things. So many things, I was too exhausted by the end of each and every day to really think about the inky darkness creeping along the edges of my mind.

I was a student leader in college. I was an official member of three different organizations with the duties and lack of free time to prove it. I was a Student Representative of an Improv club, a Vice President of a Creative Writing organization, and a staff writer for a student run online magazine. I held down three jobs–at a newspaper, as an office assistant and later a marketing/community assistant, and as a desk host. I went to school full time and I was taking some relatively difficult courses that I was not skilled in. Business. Management. Geology.

My worst semester in college was also, subsequently, my best. I was making straight A’s in business and science classes, both of which I had previously struggled with. I was participating in the above student organizations and jobs and still, I continued to add more and more to my plate. Sometimes, I would get home from work at 7 am and I would take a shower, get dressed and go to an 8am class wherein I would come back and nap for a few hours before my next scheduled appointment.

By all accounts, I was a more than a full functioning member of society. I was excelling as a leading member of society-at least in the local community where I lived. Yet, when I went to my therapist as I had been doing since my first panic attack a few months before, she told me that cases like mine made her nervous. I didn’t understand at first.

I was the person who didn’t believe in depression. Deep down, though, there had to be a reason why I kept piling more and more events, meetings, classes, and extra shifts onto my schedule. It even felt like I was running from something. I just couldn’t pin point what it was.

My excuses were, “I’m trying to network while I can.” “I’m not going to be a college student forever.” “I need the money in case of an emergency.”

I didn’t feel depressed. I felt angry.

You see, two years before this I had had a pretty nasty falling out with a maternal figure in my life and she had done some damage. They always do. I was angry with her. I was angry with my father. I was angry at the world. I was angry at certain friends who didn’t seem to care about me or my life or everything that I was going through. But, I also wasn’t comfortable telling them what was really going on. So, I blamed myself for my anger. I knew it was wrong to be angry at them and so in knowing that, I directed all of my negativity inward. And I suffered for it.

You may not think that my story is really a story about or of  “depression” because people who don’t believe in depression don’t just suddenly have an epiphany and somehow, by magic, they see the light. (Or darkness as is a more apt description of depression) I get it. It’s not your fault. I thought the same thing once upon a time.

I’m not even going to ask you to believe in depression. That wouldn’t be right. I can’t ask you to believe in something on faith. That would be hypocritical of me since even I couldn’t do so. All I ask is that if you have a friend or a family member who opens up to you and tells you about their depression, don’t try to give them advice. Don’t tell them to go outside. Don’t tell them to just “get over it” or “you’ll find someone when you least expect it.” If they are opening up to you, it means they trust you and saying shit like “it’s all in your head” is only going to drive a wedge deep into the crevice of the wounds they are trying to close.

All I ask of you is that you love them anyway. You don’t have to tell them it’s all going to be okay, especially if you don’t believe it or you aren’t sure. Just hold them. Tell them that you’re going to be there no matter what and mean it. That’s all they need.

Thank you for reading.


The Conversationalist



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