i was diagnosed with clinical depression ten years ago.
i have spent nine of those years feeling guilty about it and apologizing for how i felt.
i didn’t think of my depression as a real illness, and i didn’t view my feelings or behavior changes as real symptoms. i thought of them as personal failings that i needed to overcome. for those of us who live with a mental illness, it can be so difficult to recognize our symptoms for what they are – because they impact our thoughts and feelings, we think we should be able to just try harder and do better to feel better. as much as we are offended by the phrase “just snap out of it” we often internalize it and repeat it to ourselves in a thousand different ways.
my ongoing symptoms included decreased energy; feelings of guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness; early-morning waking; loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable; frequent crying; persistent headaches; and persistent sad, anxious and empty feelings.
despite the pain that these symptoms caused me, often for weeks or months at at time, i kept my depression a secret. aside from my family and one or two close friends, i chose not to tell anyone else about it . so for 8-10 hours a day i pretended to be fine. i went to work, i hung out with friends, i celebrated holidays – always pushing myself to be ok, not to appear depressed. i wore a mask – smiling on the outside, crying on the inside. faking it comes at a cost to ourselves.
i was constantly apologizing and always felt that my best was not good enough. no matter how well i did on a project at work or how much i cared for my friends, i felt guilty. i was carrying the weight of an illness that i thought i needed to hide, and as a result i became a chronic apologizer. i have said “i’m so sorry” for a million things that i didn’t do wrong. i’m sorry i didn’t respond sooner. i’m sorry that i can’t make it. i’m sorry that you feel bad. i’m sorry, i’m just so wiped out. i’m sorry, work is just so stressful right now. no, i’m fine, i’m sorry, there’s just a lot going on. i’m sorry i’m sorry i’m so sorry.
i apologized every day, over and over again. and i thought i was apologizing to the other person. that i was letting them down. but you know what i have realized? i was apologizing to myself. because i was letting myself down by pretending to be fine. on some level i knew that i wasn’t treating myself fairly, that i didn’t deserve to add silence on top of my suffering. underneath it wasn’t really about what the other person would think of my symptoms – it was about my struggling to accept my diagnosis of depression. amy, i’m sorry i am pretending. amy, i’m sorry i am hiding. amy, i’m sorry it hurts.
well i’m not sorry anymore. i’m not sorry that i have depression. i’m not sorry when i cry. i’m not sorry when my symptoms get worse. because i have an illness as real as any other. it’s not my fault. i can’t snap out of it. and while i am responsible for understanding and managing my symptoms, fundamentally i have done nothing wrong. and it is for these reasons that i no longer hide my depression and anxiety. they are a part of who i am, whether i like it or not. and beginning the process of accepting my mental illnesses is helping me to become less apologetic and more authentic.
i have made a promise to myself – that i will no longer apologize for my depression. i may be angry with my symptoms or feel tired or sad, but i won’t take it out on myself anymore. when i catch myself saying “i’m sorry” i stop and replace it with “i am.”
i am struggling.
i am scared.
i am strong.
and i am not sorry anymore.