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Mental Wellness

Value

There is not an equivalent to it. It is incredibly disheartening to feel like the tunnel exists, but the end is never truly there. How do you describe depression to a person that does not have it? There is the stereotypical stigma that a depressed person is a person who hides behind curtains and shields themselves with darkness. Or the stigma that you if you are depressed, just wake up tomorrow and you can start over. The stigma that society has placed on those suffering from depression almost keeps it at bay. Let us not admit that as a society, we truly have a mental health problem. It is just as much as a real issue as gun violence.

For a long time, I would wake up with this feeling. It was indescribable and I had nothing to really compare it to. As long as I can remember, I have always felt this gut-wrenching emotion of not being complete. Devoid of something that most people had. As a kid, I would recreate Toy Story in my bedroom, with my figurines, and disappear into a land of make believe. Then as I got older, I would curate stories of fantasy lands I had never been to. I once wrote a paragraph about why my favorite color was red. Red was the color of love. Red was the color of power. Red was the color of pain. An assignment as simple as describing my favorite color had turned into a diary entry into my soul. I spent the greater part of my childhood feeling misunderstood. I like to read books. I liked to shoot basketballs in the backyard. I liked to collect rocks. (I never told anyone that I was collecting them) I obviously liked the Backstreet Boys, and I liked the Spice Girls. I liked to collect rocks, but I did not necessarily live under a rock. But… I was biracial. I did not look like every kid around me. I wore big eyeglasses when I was in elementary school. The ones as big as microscopes. I was not popular. I was not even semi popular. I remember an experience when I was in the seventh grade, my classmate looked at me during a normal conversation and told me that if we were not classmates, we would not ever speak. I remember asking him why and he told me it was because I was Black. It laid there for a moment because I had no idea how to respond. But I do remember, even then, thinking the world was an unkind place. Feelings of emptiness grew throughout my life. Only in my adulthood did I realize that the feeling I could never fully describe was becoming an excessively big problem. I tried, with no success, to push the feeling away. I cannot count the number of times I woke up the next morning with a splintering headache and the same old problems. Then the breaking point. I was lying on the bathroom floor. I do not remember anything but the white walls and fluorescent lights. And I remember the feeling I could not describe was like an ominous scream in my ear. Depression.

One afternoon, sometime later, I googled therapists. Remember the internet can find anything. I was working a decent job. I was into a new guy. I had more money in my pocket. But the feeling of impending doom was lingering. “Why are you here?” I remember the question and I remember my response being something in the ballpark of “I have a feeling of not being happy. I am not happy.”

Persistent Depressive Disorder. That is the diagnosis. Putting a name to it was helpful. Like it takes some of the power back. Managing depression is a twenty-four hour/seven-day job. There are days when I want to stay in bed and not answer my phone. There are days when I will be driving and wonder if I have a destination. I can sit on a beach, and it will flicker. Fast but it will flicker. It is a constant battle.

Society has made it more acceptable to talk about mental health. There are self-help books. There are telephone numbers to call. There is access to many things. But society still does not necessarily want to talk about it. You bring it up in conversation and people still get squeamish. Having a mental health problem is not an infliction; it does not require a black label. I have tried to run from it so that I could be more socially acceptable. But that devalues it. Depression does not make a person any less valuable. If you truly value a person, you will sit down and you will ask them, “How are you?” and you will not fear the response.

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by Kristina Hopper

Self published author;
Dream Seeker;
Art Curator;
Poet;


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