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Depression Isn't A Personality Flaw

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DEPRESSED YOUNG BLACK WOMAN
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Have you read a story about a student who, despite all odds and adversity, overcame their situations and excelled in school? Or watched a clip about a young adult who has their entire life figured out before they've even graduated? Has it left you thinking 'why can't I just do that?'

Here's something for you: don't compare your progress to someone else's.

Sometimes progress is just getting out of bed. Sometimes it's eating, and showering, and responding to all those texts you never got around to. Sometimes it's catching up on homework.

Sometimes it is just existing.

When you have depression, anxiety, or any of the mental disorders that rear their ugly heads during young adulthood, simple tasks may not be simple for you.

If you've done any of these, despite everything in your head telling you these aren't accomplishments, then I'm proud of you.

When you have depression, anxiety, or any of the mental disorders that rear their ugly heads during young adulthood, simple tasks may not be simple for you. Everything in your head is telling you to just get over it and that it isn't as bad as you're making it seem.

Sometimes you'll hear it from other people. They might see your irritability as lashing out. Your anxiety might seem irrational. Your homework, which was once a walk in the park for you, might leave you feeling like a complete and utter failure.

I've been there.

It was ugly. Sometimes I was oversleeping, or not sleeping enough, or overeating, or not eating enough. I felt what was the emotional equivalent of watching paint dry. I was very anxious about all the homework I was too depressed to do.

We assume our personalities are the problem when that isn't actually the case.

You would think hitting rock bottom is a one-time thing. I'm telling you from experience that that isn't true.

I spent days, even weeks lying in bed thinking "this can't be happening to me." I was raised to believe only adults could get depressed. It started when I was a teen, and is yet to become less prevalent in my life. And the sooner I accepted that, I was able to begin dealing with it.

2016-09-19-1474317320-7459428-allangardens.jpg
Ashleigh-Rae in Allan Gardens, Toronto, where she sometimes goes to clear her head.

Since then, I've quit multiple jobs, canceled more social outings than I can count, failed classes, missed appointments, got dumped because I was too depressed, and ended some relationships for that same reason.

None of these decisions were easy. But they were ones I made in the name of self-preservation.

Studies say that this is a familiar narrative for one in five of us. Even though so many Canadians are experiencing mental health issues, we deal with it quietly because of the many stigmas around it. We assume our personalities are the problem when that isn't actually the case. So, I can't stress this enough: it is a disease.

The symptoms of depression sometimes present themselves as flaws. I kept thinking if I adjusted my attitude or if I weren't such a bad person then I would feel better.

Depression, anxiety, PTSD, borderline, these are all diseases and disorders. You haven't done anything wrong! It's taken me a long time to realize too that I haven't done anything wrong.

When I was going through it, and if I'm being honest, I still am, I felt utterly alone. The symptoms of depression sometimes present themselves as flaws. I kept thinking if I adjusted my attitude or if I weren't such a bad person then I would feel better.

Because we think it's something we've done or that it's our fault, we don't seek treatment. Too many of us aren't reaching out for help when we're experiencing these things. But there are so many resources out there. There are also various help lines, and even websites where you can vent to a compassionate stranger. Talk to your family doctor, and if they're no help, find another one.

Sometimes you have to be the one to advocate for your own mental health. It's especially hard when you don't have the energy, or you don't think you deserve to feel better. But you do.

There's no Band-Aid or quick fix, and that can be overwhelming for so many of us. We just want this all to go away.

Progress is being able to come out and say I have struggled quietly with this for too long. I'm no longer invalidating my own feelings and experiences.

I don't have all the answers to feeling better. I've just gotten out of a dangerous bout of depression. But I'm still here aren't I? And if you're reading this, then you're still here against all odds. Existing is hard, especially when your brain is telling you to give up. But you're still here and I'm proud of you.

Right now, progress for me looks like finally being on antidepressants that are working. Progress is, as of writing this, going two weeks without having any suicidal thoughts. Progress is being able to come out and say I have struggled quietly with this for too long. I'm no longer invalidating my own feelings and experiences.

Progress is an ongoing process, and regression is always around the corner. But every day we're on this earth is a success story.

If you or someone you know is at risk please contact your nearest Crisis Centre or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a counsellor.

Frame Of Mind is a new series inspired by The Maddie Project that focuses on teens and mental health. The series will aim to raise awareness and spark a conversation by speaking directly to teens who are going through a tough time, as well as their families, teachers and community leaders. We want to ensure that teens who are struggling with mental illness get the help, support and compassion they need. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email cablogteam@huffingtonpost.com

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