In My Shoes: Changing how people perceive depression

http://m.richmond.com/life/in-my-shoes/article_379c34ca-f0da-5d5a-8270-fd44e5e24585.html?mode=jqm

My whole life I have been the one who makes people’s days. The friend who makes people feel loved and wanted. The one who truly lives in hope and with a purpose.

I ran the Speak Up 5K for Cameron Gallagher. I spray-painted her initials on our baseball field because I fully supported her and what she wanted that run to stand for.

(Cameron Gallagher was a 16-year-old who died unexpectedly from heart failure after completing the Virginia Beach half-marathon in March 2014. The Speak Up 5K supports the Cameron Gallagher Memorial Foundation, which was started after the family found notes about a 5K race Cameron had been planning to raise awareness about depression, a mental illness she struggled with herself.)

I knew depression was real, that it affected a ton of people, that it was important and dangerous.

I knew everything, but I understood nothing.

Unless you have dealt with it personally, then you have no idea what a depressed individual actually struggles with. In fact, most times neither does the individual.

The most terrifying aspect of depression is the consuming sense of utter helplessness and loss of control over the one thing we all feel we should control — how we feel.

What most people know about depression is inaccurate. Depressed people are not constantly sad, mopey humans.

While each person is unique, I believe sharing how I personally feel when depression hits will provide a good snapshot of the true nature of this misunderstood disorder.

I can feel the depression slowly move in. It makes my heart sink and I am helpless against it. The feeling is comparable to watching the opposing team run the clock out at the end of a football game, and just like I know that game will end, so will my day.

I feel ashamed, like a freak, and guilty for how I feel. No one can tell — usually — but that just makes it worse. Even surrounded by people I feel utterly alone, and that just adds to the way I feel: enclosed and trapped inside my head, engulfed in a dark cloud of guilt and despair.

I isolate myself, usually in my dorm room. I am exhausted, immobile and useless with anxiety. I believe the lies that feel so real: that my girlfriend is breaking up with me, that God is not enough to get me through this, or that even God has abandoned me in this darkness.

All I can think of is the feeling that the rest of my life is inevitable, and that I cannot possibly live a happy life with this.

The worst part: I know all of that is not true, but that does not make it any less real.

I’m drained and I will generally end up just going to sleep.

Everyone knows that depression exists. But no one completely understands it, and that needs to change. Imagine a person breaking his leg, and refusing to let a doctor reset it because he’s “healthy.”

The stigma surrounding “mental disorders” overshadows the chance many people have of escaping the cloud of darkness that follows them. They won’t consider getting help because they are “normal.”

We live in a world that is constantly changing and improving the way we think about others, and now I believe it is time that we focus on fixing the way that we think about ourselves.

Ethan Payne is a college freshman who just finished his first semester at Ole Miss. He is a 2015 graduate of Douglas Freeman High School.

lauren west