From me to you: depression has no specific look

I sat and really thought, how could I have saved you? Was there anything I could have done differently to help you then and now? I searched my memories for specific experiences from which I could advise on alternate reactions, behaviours, thoughts and self-talk. Yet, still looking back now, I realize now it did not matter what I told you, how much I tried to alter your perspective, nothing would be different today. You had to go through this period in life.

Everything would be exactly as it is because of one glaringly reality. You cannot operate, respond or deal with the trauma you will experience at 9 and until you are 32 because you are uneducated and moreover unaware of two words “Mental Health” from its simplest definition to it’s most complex. This is mainly because you will grow up in a society and culture that renders the topic and even the words themselves taboo, with negative connotations and physical exclusion to anyone associated with the same.

Unfortunately, you will become aware of Mental Health and Well-Being after years of undealt trauma bottles up and promises to explode on you physically and mentally to get your attention. You will learn that people shun what they do not understand, and follow the status-quo for generations without attempting to actually educate themselves and break the cycle even when they too are experiencing similarities.

I want to share with you your story, not to scare or change your course but to inspire, motivate and encourage you for what is to come. I want to share with you to educate you, because in the future that is who you are destined to become, an educator, encourager and motivator of Mental Well- Being awareness and intentionality . I want to share your story of bravery, because your bravery will help many who are going through now, what you have overcome. Everything you will experience may threaten to break you, but I want to tell you, it made you as well. The version of yourself trauma created, is a version you never envisioned, but needed. You will hide yourself for many years because you will feel broken, but I want to tell you, your brokenness will be the golden star in your story.

My ultimate goal here is to educate and inspire you and other younger versions like yourself by sharing your mental health journey story.

“You have clinical depression, and your anxiety and insomnia are results of it, “Ha ha”, those were the first two words you said to the psychiatrist attempting to diagnose you as a Mental Health patient in January 2019. Your next set of words went something like this “I think I’m going to need a second opinion because you are misdiagnosing me. Look at me, do I look like I have Clinical Depression? I am very smart and successful. I go out, I have friends, and I have a great professional life and I’m very beautiful (yep, conceited). What you are saying to me is impossible.”

Your psychiatrist will then tell you life changing words; crucial for your mental health healing and understanding journey , “what does clinical depression look like?” You will be rendered speechless. She will further add, “the thing is you are high functioning, that is why you are able to do all those things and think you are okay, but I am sure, when you are alone, you are not.” She will be right.

However, for months, you will fight the diagnosis, unwilling start the medication, and drag yourself to psychotherapy. Your main reason will be to prove the psychiatrist wrong. It will take you months to accept your diagnosis, even after researching all your symptoms, extensively educating yourself on a foreign topic and really just being honest with yourself about everything you are feeling. It will still take you months to say “I have a mental health challenge. I am clinically depressed and I definitely need help.”

Right here I want to tell you, your lack of acceptance, will be 95% because of the status quo of the society you live in, your lack of knowledge on mental health, your fear of being judged and ostracized by family and friends, your fright of having your feelings invalidated by others because you did not “look depressed” and because that version of yourself is who you have been all your life, it is who you and other people know.

However, psychotherapy will be your initial source for guidance, understanding, healing, and what I term “activation to begin living.”

It will be revealed that your mental well-being started deteriorating from age 9, you will stay silent about physical traumas you endure. All throughout your teenage life you will continue to bottle and put “back of mind” countless physically, emotional and mental traumatic experiences because you will continue to hear and believe “everyone goes through that you’ll be okay” “or that’s life, it’s normal” or “life is tough, grow up” and other inaccurate situational statements like “you are exaggerating, it’s not that serious”.

This silence will transcend to your personal relationships as a young adult where you will misinterpret verbal and physical abuse as signs of love, you will convince yourself to accept less than you deserve for fear of loneliness, feelings of unworthiness will consume you because of these unresolved traumatic experiences and you will unfortunately empty yourself in these relationships.

Right here I want to tell you, everyone around you was wrong. It was that serious, because at 33 you will discover, you created an alternate personality to which you attributed all traumatic experiences. A personality you looked at and judged as broken and weak in comparison to the person you convinced yourself you are; successful, educated, happy, funny, goal getter etc.

As much as you hid her away, she was still right there, with her collection jar of unresolved trauma, filling up, waiting for her day.

Right here I want to tell you the therapy session that joins this alternate hidden personality with your conscious personality will be the most hurtful day of your life. It will be the day, you feel two decades worth of trauma all at once. It is your day of acknowledgement. It is the day you will realize you are not okay. The chaos that was claiming residence in your mind for about two years prior (which you ignored until I exploded in January 2019) going unattended too, manifesting physically in the form of painful anxiety attacks, was a battle of war of your own life experiences fighting to be seen, heard and healed and your constructed reality of “those things did not happen to ME.”

But let me also tell you, the months following will be filled with lightness. You will begin to feel consciously relieved from unconscious burdens. Yes, you will still be challenging clinical depression, you will have high days and you will have low days.

It will take you months of medication, therapy, and other supporting activities e.g exercising, mediation, journaling, eating the right foods, self-care, rebuilding a relationship with your Creator. But, I want to assure you with the utmost confidence, you will get through it all, even on the days when you feel overwhelmed and low, you will find the courage, will and grit to continue on.

You will learn new skills that will pivot your life in the most amazing way. You will meet people, who will support and encourage you and help birth a version of you, you never knew existed. I want to tell you you will lose some friends. Some family members may not like what your journey reveals but, even then, I want you to know, you will be okay.

I want you to always remember you are stronger than you know, every time you think you have capped your strength and courage, push some more. You will inspire many, you will overcome situations you were once overwhelmed by and you will fall in love over and over with yourself throughout your entire journey.

There is so much more, I want to tell you, but it is of utmost importance that you always remember, you are worthy of life, you are worthy of a good life, you deserve happiness and you deserve to be surrounded by people who make you happy.

I tell you this because there will come a time, when you will feel as though giving up on life is the answer, and in this moment I want you to preserve, for there is happiness and a life that you never imagined waiting on the opposite side, but you must perserve.

Allow me to give you some advice on your mental health journey:

  • It is okay to disrupt the status-quo to honor yourself.
  • It is okay to be vulnerable, open and honest with yourself.
  • It is okay to have uncomfortable conversations to move through and process traumatic events, as a matter fact, it is recommended you do every time.
  • Give yourself the same kindness and love you offer so freely to others
  • You do not need to have what you feel validated or invalidated, the fact that you feel it is enough.
  • Do not become consumed with acceptance so much so that you rob yourself and others of your beautiful genuine being.

In terms of improving your mental health as you grow through your journey:

  • Connect with others – it will help you feel a sense of purpose and self-worth
  • Be physically active – it will raise your self-esteem and the chemical changes will boost your mood
  • Learn a new skill/learn something new- this will be big for you, as you will teach yourself skills that you will find joy, purpose and passion in creating and implementing.
  • Give to others – this will improve your mental well-being, creating positive feeling and a sense of reward.

I want to prepare you as adequately as I can, so I want to also tell you, the journey will get lonely at times, and that’s okay. During these periods of loneliness, have the perspective of learning to love and be kind to yourself and discover new ways to do so.

Healing is continuous and it is not linear, there is no road map and there is no list of the right or wrong way. This is your journey, embrace it, grow through it, learn from it and then share it, the world is waiting to hear from you overcomer.

Jenille continues to share her story via her IG page @iam.jenille.patrice She is committed to dismantling stereotypes surrounding mental health and mental well being, creating and engaging in accurate mental health conversations and encouraging and supporting others on their mental well-being journey. Go over to her IG and say hi!