What does depression mean to you?
There is no way to explain and describe depression to reflect the depth of the feeling and condition. In society, depression is usually equated to sadness, just another emotion. Though there is sadness associated with depression, it is so much deeper than this one word encompasses. To me, depression feels like a dark abyss of utter despair, grief, and hopelessness. Depression drains me of all of my motivation, drive, joy, energy, and positive outlook until it renders me incapable of even getting out of bed and feeding myself. It makes me feel like I am drowning under an eternal ocean of pain and helplessness. Depression also sometimes makes me feel out of control because it has no magical off switch. Once a wave of it hits, one cannot simply change their mindset quickly to “get over it.”
How did you overcome depression and/or self harm?
I would not go as far as saying that I have overcome depression and self harm, but I would say that I have learned to manage them both. I have bipolar type II, which means I go back and forth between depression and hypomania. One of the most critical ways of helping manage bipolar for me was to find the right medication. There is a very biological root to depression associated with the chemical imbalance in the brain, and medications can help in managing the intensity of the condition. What also helped me manage depression was to seek professional help. Along with bipolar II, I also struggle with anxiety, PTSD, OCD, OCPD, and eating disorders. I have been in varying levels of mental health treatment for a combined period of around 16 months. I found it incredibly critical to my mental health recovery to seek professional help in the midst of emotional, mental, and physical chaos. Everyone has a different journey. Whether it is simply seeing a therapist or psychiatrist every so often or it is being admitted to a treatment facility, your journey towards overcoming your mental illness is valid and important.
What advice would you give to someone that is battling with depression and/or self-harm?
I just want to reiterate that there is no shame in finding medication to help manage depression or seeking professional help. It is a sign of strength, and it is prioritizing yourself and wellness. Another word of advice that I would give to someone battling depression and/or self-harm is to be patient and compassionate towards yourself. Mental illness is extremely difficult to live with, and unfortunately that difficulty is oftentimes invalidated by others or society. Know that your struggle is real, valid, and important. Be gentle with yourself, prioritize yourself and your health, and give yourself what you need in order to get well.
What do you believe are some problems that media brings to females that battle with depression and/or self harm?
I think the media lacks accurate depictions of depression and self harm, which is one reason why these mental illnesses are grossly misunderstood. I feel like depression and self harm are put into a category of “not making logical sense” or that they are “easily changeable.” The reality though is that depression and self harm are issues for a reason. For example, self harm is usually used as a way of managing intense emotions associated with hardship and/or trauma. For many who struggle with self harm, it is used as one of the primary ways of coping with emotions and stress when individuals were not taught healthier ways of coping with extreme emotions. Therefore, it takes time, help, care, and patience and compassion from self and others to overcome depression and self harm. I wish the media did better at helping dismantling the stigma associated with mental illness, but with time I believe that it will improve. Though media is a big issue in a lot of ways when it comes to mental illness education, it is also oftentimes used as the primary platform of raising awareness. I think it is now just a matter of brave individuals stepping up and sharing their stories and experiences to educate and encourage others that they are not alone in the struggle.