I cannot be too sure how it began but it feels like it has been a long time. It might have begun when I was 12 and felt the full impact of my parent’s ugly and painful divorce. Or 14 when I self-harmed for the first time because I didn’t know how to cope with parental conflict and anxiety. Or at 16, when I was sexually assaulted and did not dare to tell anyone. When depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts entered my life, I learnt how frightening, isolating, and hopeless life could feel.
Fast forward and I am 30 this year. Despite multiple hospitalisations, countless medication and psychotherapy, and several failed suicide attempts, I am still alive and that counts for something. I am capable of functioning and have had full-time jobs most of the time, which is fortunate. With the right attire and socially accepted behaviours, you cannot see the scars. Sometimes the depression gets worse, sometimes it lifts momentarily and I can go on dates, meet friends, function, plan for the future. Sometimes I lie in bed when the fog gets too heavy. Sometimes the fog is a weight I carry around and go about my daily routine.
Mental illness is not something that comes up in everyday conversations, but it should be. There were (and still are) countless days where I wished I could be honest about my experiences and not fear judgement or get passed over for an employment opportunity. Contrary to mainstream belief where only the “weak” are vulnerable, anyone can be afflicted with a mental health condition. And while resilience is often used to describe individuals who turn out well despite adversity, perhaps we can begin to see that it actually takes a lot of strength to fight another day, to survive, to just be.
I may live with depression for the rest of my life but I have been learning to cope better. Every day is a new battle and victory. I am just as human, longing for love, understanding and belonging. I am just another person on the street.