Sometimes I think of it like a time when you overconfidently take that last step down the stairs. That your foot falls through the floor beneath you – ground that only moments before was a stable guarantee. For that speck of time your leg hurtles through the air, taking the contents of your stomach with it…before folding upon itself making contact. Crumpling on the concrete.
The fall of my sophomore year, I slumped. Slump doesn’t seem to feel like an adequate term to describe how I caught myself in a lie, how I could no longer recognize myself by the way I felt. Sometimes I still place myself on that bathroom floor – where I held those 34 chalk white ovals in my hand, thinking I made it up. That I was being dramatic and did it to garner attention.
Except for that the lie I told myself, that it was not a problem, that it wasn’t a big enough deal – was the same lie I told my therapist, my parents, and my friends. I’ve never admitted that it happened. I denied that it was wrong… Because I never actually followed through…right?
Until I denied the lie enough for it to become true.
I told myself that my problems are nothing compared to others. I have not been a victim of abuse, I come from a loving and supportive upbringing. I go to college. I have no disability, and I’ve been privileged to live a life made available through access to money. What right do I have to feel anxious, depressed or out of control? You are fine, I told myself, between the strokes of brushing my hair, you’re making up this bullshit for the attention.
The days I spent denying I needed help are among the ones I have the most difficulty remembering. I ran through the hours on autopilot, physically present in class without writing a single word on the page, too preoccupied by what every other person in the room was thinking of me. Unable to hold a conversation, my mind so weighted down by the thoughts undermining my existence. But still I lied. Kept pretending I was the same, happy girl, forcing the smile on my lips that felt more and more like the wax lips won at a carnival. Brittle and jarring.
Even when I upended the prescription bottle into my hand, I still operated on the system of deny deny deny. I sat there, feeling disconnected with my own body – as the sweat on my hands caused the pills to stick. I only stared.
Two days later, I called the counseling center and immediately hung up. I wasn’t really depressed was I? I needed to be that happy person my parents and friends believed I was. I was fine, I lied. I didn’t need their help. Depressed people don’t go to class, party on weekends and have a group of friends. That wasn’t me – I was ok.
It took the help of a courageous friend to encourage me to attend counseling. Still there, I lied. Fortunate for me I was no longer the only judge – I finally got help.
Lying to yourself is a dangerous step. I was so afraid of myself that I bore a strong face until it was my own downfall. It still haunts me how I denied it. How my first instinct is to undermine rather than accept.
Depression doesn’t always look like the greyscale pictures you see. I took every step I could to seem joyful, while my guts rapidly decayed. It’s often the people that show it least who need the help the most.