In the wake of the suicide of one of the greatest entertainers and inspirations of our time, I wanted to take a minute to talk about my own experience with depression (also known as the epidemic of this generation).
Ever since I can remember, I have been an extremely thoughtful person with a depth of emotion that I did not have the capacity to handle, let alone the will to understand.
I’ve always been spunky and outgoing. School, music and athletics came easily to me, so from an early age I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I wanted to live up to what those around me thought I was capable of—how they believed I was destined to be something great.
I couldn’t handle this pressure that I now realize I put onto myself; while I continued to hang out with my friends, excel in school and keep up with my commitments in music and on the soccer field, inside I was terrified. This pressure, combined with a tendency to over-think and a distorted and all-consuming negative body image resulted in an adolescence of absolute self-loathing.
While I still kept up with school and social obligations, fell in “love” for the first time, and was constantly busy, my dark thoughts began to increase. I wanted to control everything around me, wanted to not feel so much. I began drinking and going out more and more during high school.
My unhealthy relationships with food and my body that I had harbored since being a pre-teen turned into a full-blown eating disorder that I could no longer control.
In college, after a freshman year of endless parties, eating and purging shitty food multiple times per day, the end of my first long-term relationship, the regret of stupid party flings and the stresses of getting good grades, I finally came to terms with how sick I was.
My digestion was in shambles, my hair was dry and lifeless—I was dry and lifeless. I was a shell of who I knew I was. If I even took a minute to reflect on my feelings, I could not handle how intense they were and I avoided them with my vices.
I was 18 and I was at rock bottom. I was f***ing 18.
The last day of freshman year I finally decided to spill my guts to my mother and began the most painful and wonderful time in my life: my recovery.
The summer I turned 19 was the most life-altering chunk of time I had ever experienced. I got my sh*t together. I began my love affair with healthy, nourishing foods and long-distance running. Every single meal, I prepared myself for the urge to purge and tried to accept my own digestion.
Every single day I had to tell myself that I was good enough, that I could handle the cruel nature of the world, the extreme joy, the profound sadness and raging anger that coursed through me.
I focused on the little things like increasing my mileage or my love of cooking, swimming with my friends or watching a movie with my family. Ironically, I shaped the body I have always wanted once I stopped purging out of fear I would gain weight from the sh*t I fed my body.
I still feel all-consuming sadness, food guilt and rage I never knew could exist in a person—as well as joy, love, contentment and thoughtfulness on an extreme level. I still feel hopelessness and inadequate at times. But I am now a person I am proud to be. I am proud of my struggles, of the fact that I am a thunderstorm.
I no longer apologize for my emotions. Nobody should. In this culture we are taught to “be strong” and “be successful” and not to ever break down, otherwise we are “crazy.”
You cannot go around and pinpoint every person struggling, every person who is depressed. There is no face of depression. Sure, it could be the girl in the corner of the room, in all black, crying. But, it could also be the star athlete, the life of the party, or your favorite comedian.
It should not be taboo to struggle in this life. It is f***ing brutal. There is no shame in feeling the emotions that come naturally to you, no shame in learning to love your body and your mind because you previously hated it.
If the death of a universally-loved celebrity at the hands of depression should teach us anything, it is that no amount of money, fame, good looks, social status, or privilege excludes a person from possessing darkness, feeling the heavy burden of trying to succeed in this world, of trying to live. It is f***ing hard and it’s time we accept that.
Be who you are and do not apologize for it. If you don’t like who you are, make an effort to change. Either way, share the struggles that come along the way, make the depth of your own emotions known, accept them. They are beautiful, and so is life.
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Apprentice Editor: Bronwyn Petry / Editor: Travis May
Photo: Helga Weber, Flickr Creative Commons