Depression has always popped up in waves throughout my life, but never has it flattened me like it did in 2016. Two years ago, Depression reared its ugly head and tried to stamp me out with a vengeance. It isolated me from community. It belted out lies in my head and heart telling me I was unworthy and unlovable. It cut me off from every good thing I had ever known and told me to stay insignificant.
It took a lot of fighting, a lot of friends refusing to give up on me, and a whole lot of faith to drag me out of that storm. Sometimes the lies do creep back in my head, and there are days where the heaviness on my heart and the fog in my mind threaten to drag me back down. But for the most part, Depression no longer has his hold on me.
When I got the courage to speak about the darkness that happened in 2016, people inevitably say to me “I would never have guessed because you looked so happy” or “You looked like you were doing fine so I didn’t think I needed to reach out.”
The truth is, I did an amazing job putting on a brave face and a smile to the world because it hurt too much to confide in people who wouldn’t understand. But secretly, I was dying on the inside. When I finally confided to my friends about it – the ones I always thought were doing ‘just fine’ and were ‘successful’- they told me that they too were suffering through their own darkness.
Here’s the thing: everyone is going through some secret struggle. Everyone is nursing a wound or fighting a battle you know nothing about. I don’t want to be someone who just assumes my friends are doing just fine because all they’re posting are highlights of their life. It might not be our job to be a caretaker to all of our friends. But it is our job as supporters and lovers of those we care about to remind them that they do have a place in this world and they do belong.
Depression wins by making people feel isolated. So be the person who reaches out and says “Hey, I see you. You aren’t alone.” Let this day be a reminder that we humans need each other. Life is hard. Uni is hard. But we don’t have to carry the burden all on our own.
Listen in: If someone reaches out to you out of the blue, it could mean they’ve worked up the courage to confide in you about their struggles. Listen actively and try to provide a safe space for your friend to talk about their darkness. Respond with empathy and understanding. Sometimes all we need is to feel heard and understood.
Check in with your friends: Simple messages like ‘How’s week 8 going for you?’ or ‘What’s been happening lately?’ can sometimes be enough to make a person feel seen and cared for. If a friend you haven’t seen in a while pops into your mind, just take 1 minute out of your day to send them a message.
Encourage baby steps: Those who are experiencing darkness often don’t feel like they have the strength to move forward. Sometimes all they need is for someone to take initiative by saying “Let’s do something fun and get you out of your head for a bit” or “I’ll help you make your first counselling appointment.”
Remember that this is more than a day. This is more than a catchy slogan, a picture we re-post, and a once a year status. We should always be supporting and uplifting our friends and our family. We should care enough about them to not be deceived by their online presence, and actually say in real life ‘ Are you ok?’ Your words might just be the lifeline someone needs to step out of their darkness.
Written by Ashley Chow (Co-founder)