“Come on, cheer up!”

“Let’s go out this Saturday night have some drinks and you’ll forget about it!”

“Cry a river and get over it.”

“You have to go through it!”

It was September 2015. After hearing things like these and some other more, I went to see a doctor and told him: “I thought I was deeply sad, but I guess I’m just sick.” It took me some months to realise it (or maybe I was just ignoring it), but truth is, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat and my heartbeat was so strong I couldn’t help but noticing it at all times. I didn’t miss a single day at work, but my concentration levels were at their minimum (not only because of what was going on in my head, but also because I wasn’t eating properly), and I would constantly doing mistakes.

When the doctor asked what was going on with me, I felt super ashamed to tell him that me and my long lasting boyfriend had broken up unexpectedly and since then my life had fallen apart. Precisely me, the one I thought was strong, independent, mature and focus driven… I would look myself in the mirror and see this super skinny girl weighting 43 kg, with a heart trying to break out of her chest and dark circles that would reach her chin. I thought it was somehow legit to feel this way for several weeks, but after some months I started wondering why was I feeling so sad for so long! Family and friends would help me in every way they could, but this question started to bother me: What if I was sick?

I walked out of the doctor’s office with a prescription and a clear diagnostic: depression. I didn’t cry; I wasn’t scared; I didn’t feel ashamed. Not a bit! Knowing I was doing the right thing to get better made me feel relieved and hopeful about getting better soon. When I returned to the doctor a few weeks later and after reading all kinds of things about depression (blame it on Google!), I had this list of questions mainly about addiction. I never hid from no one what was going on with me and that was the moment I found how unaware we all are about our mental health. From depreciation to prejudice, mental disease isn’t seen as a real disease (as much as a cancer is) and people often reject it because they fear it.

This year’s World Health Day campaign, promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1950 and celebrated on April 7th, had it focus on the motto “Depression: let’s talk”.

Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

So does it ring any bells…? According to data provided by WHO, depression (which can lead to suicide in many cases) is the second most common cause of death within people between 15 and 29 years old. More than 300 million people are now living with depression all over the world. We all know someone who is suffering some of the characteristics I’ve just described. We all do. At least two of my best friends and one relative have had a depression; I have two friends who are currently suffering from depression. The problem is, these are only people from my life who are diagnosed and actually talk about their condition. How many more are living feeling tormented by depression or other mental diseases, and do not seek help fearing stigma, insecurity or shame?

I do not know much about this and I realise that what I went through was not even severe, but I can’t pretend it didn’t happen and that it didn’t change the way I look at depression and what I feel about it – and yes, I also had a lot of misconceptions about mental diseases, but luckily that is changing.

 

This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the Portuguese version.

Clique aqui para ler este texto em português.