“You used to be the happiest kid growing up.”
“You always had the biggest smile on your face.”
“You are too quiet.”
“We miss the old Carla.”
Every time my parents say something like this, my heart completely breaks. And I’m overcome with a sense of guilt like who I’ve become as a result of the things I’ve experienced is my fault. Like I chose to change.
If it were my choice, I would go back to who I was, that kid who never stopped laughing or talking.
Some days it feels like I’m in a competition of me vs. who I used to be, and the present day, me always loses. Like everyone would rather see her as if we were two people.
And because of that, I spent so much time rejecting every part of myself and resenting the person looking back at me in the mirror.
The greatest battle wasn’t getting strapped with the label of “depressed,” but rather learning to not hate myself for it.
It took me a very long time to even admit I had depression. I denied it. I ignored it. Repressing and hiding my bad days though only made them worse when they hit. I felt a sense of shame like it was some character flaw within myself, I should have been able to control. And I tried to control it. It was tough wrapping my head around the science behind why someone is depressed.
So I read and researched and tried to “fix it.”
Run. They said.
Take Vitamin D. They said.
Eat Healthier. They said.
Lose weight. They said.
But no matter what habits I changed in my daily life, depression lingered like an unwelcome house guest who stayed too long.
After struggling to accept it, came a lot of anger. Why was I the one in my family who had to live with this? Why couldn’t I go back? When did things change? Was it my fault? My life consisted of bad days and really dark moments I knew my siblings would never relate to or understand, even if I tried to explain it to them
Because how do you explain I feel lonely standing in a crowd?
How do you explain you need to cry right now but there is no reason why? How do you explain why you’re tired, even though you just woke up?
You don’t. Instead, you stay quiet as you fight these battles within you.
I didn’t think it was fair. But at the same time, I would never wish depression on anyone. Especially my siblings. And if given the choice and one of us had to fight this, I’d pick myself every time. If me living with this meant they didn’t have to, I’d take every bad day that brought me to my knees in solute.
“You’re going to do fine in life,” an aunt said.
“You’ve overcome and endured things they never will have to and it’s going to make you stronger than you even realize.”
That statement stuck with me. Because for the first time I stopped defining myself by this cloud that hovered always, by this ghost that always followed, by this thing I finally stopped hating. I stopped running from it.
And every time those comments strike me, instead of allowing negativity to drain me as it used to. I remember I’m still the person I used to be before depression came waltzing into my life trying to control it.
I still care very deeply about people. I still feel things as much as I did. I’m still the same hopeless romantic who looked at Boy Meets World at the age of 9 as the epitome of relationship goals when I grew up. I still have the same dreams as I did. I still like the same movies.
So much of me is the same except this minor glitch of a chemical imbalance.
And maybe I don’t smile as much as I used to. Maybe I don’t laugh as hard as I once did. Maybe I’m a little quieter. But the things I’ve gained from learning to live a successful life, depressed comes with a compassion, an understanding, and being overly observant of others.
I know what it’s like to hide how you feel when you can even explain what it is you’re feeling. I know what it’s like to struggle and have battles within yourself. I know what a fake smile looks like in a crowd. And I can tell with one conversation based on your tone if you are lying to me. Because I’ve been there and I’ve lived it.
But above all things, depression has taught me to truly appreciate the good days I have. Because they come in waves. One day could be the best day of my life and the next could be me alone in my apartment crying for no reason and realizing I forgot to eat that day. But those days are okay too. Those days teach me also to appreciate the good days and look forward to the next one I know will come.
So no, I might not be the person I used to be and I’m sorry if you miss that. But of the things I refuse to apologize for is, who I am and this just comes with the territory.