No "Buts" When It Comes To Depression

The winter of my first year at university was one of the worst times of my life. Living away from home and being swamped with stress in the dead of winter can suck for anyone. It’s even worse when you have the burden of chronic depression on your shoulders.

I never knew the power of telling someone you’re depressed. I would hide away in my room and sink into my own sadness, never mentioning it to my roommates. I did, however, confide in my friends back home. I would text them saying how upset I was with life and how down I always felt. I would do it in a subtle way, never truly texting: “Hey y’all I’m depressed!” It was just small things like telling them I hadn’t eaten that day, or that I had cried all morning, or that I had been too sad to go to class. But they would never respond.

I know it’s hard to have someone in your life who seems irrationally depressed - I get that. But as a real friend you should focus on the depressed part, not the irrational part. Yes, I know, little things would make me cry, but little things add up.

I went home for reading week in February with the weight of my depression still on my back. I felt distant from my friends back home and only left the house once that week. Before going back to school, I drafted a long text to our group chat to bluntly tell them how depressed I truly was. And they blamed me for it.

Essentially, the conversation went like this: I told them I was depressed and they responded with “yeah, but...”. This translates to: “yeah you’re depressed, but we hate that you’re a downer.” They told me how they felt like I had a new life full of new people and I only talked to them when I was complaining about something. I did make new friends here at Western - they weren’t wrong about that - but I wasn’t nearly comfortable enough with them to tell them how sad I was. They weren’t my best friends of 5 years - not even close.

I understood why my old friends felt the way they did, but they didn’t understand why I felt the way I did. To my old friends, my depression didn’t count because I was living a new life, full of new things, new experiences, and new people and to them, they weren’t included. They felt this exclusion overrode the fact that I was depressed.

I’m not friends with my old friends from home anymore. If you have people in your life that give you a “yeah, but” response when you finally gain the courage to tell them about your mental illness, you shouldn’t be friends with them, either. There are no “buts” when it comes to sadness. Your mental illness isn’t a blame game.

There was a sliver lining to losing my old friends: I could finally tell my new friends about it all. By no means was this an easy task to do, but I did it. Finally, all the pain, sadness and silence that had been piling up in me was released into a healthy support system. My new friends didn’t give me any “buts” about my depression or my irrationality, rather they gave me a “we understand.” Now whenever I hide away in my room, I have people that text me asking if I’m okay. Whenever I cry, I have people to tell me it’s going to be okay. Whenever I have something to complain about, I now have people that I can vent to.

They may be hard to find, but there are people out there who won’t gaslight you into blaming yourself for your own depression. Whether it’s a friend, family member, soph or mental health professional, there’s someone out there that won’t tell you you’re wrong for feeling sad. Leave the people behind you who give you buts and surround yourself with people who tell you they understand. They’re out there somewhere, I promise.

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