I grew up in a nice neighbourhood, I had a loving family and the best friends I could ask for. I had pocket money and I had access to community sport. My parents were able to give me every opportunity to thrive and be happy as a child. But I still ended up depressed.
My depression set in in high school, and throughout my life I have associated it with my history of concussions. I am happy to report that I am almost completely off my anti-depressants, and I haven’t experienced a severe concussion symptom in at least two months (although headaches do happen occasionally). I have come out the other side, stronger and wiser.
But, there is one thing that has stuck with me over the years.
“You have everything, why are you sad?”
This is what my mind would tell me, day after day. I am privileged, I have money for university, for sport. I was never abused, and my experiences with trauma were minimal.
“There is someone out there who has it worse.”
I would repeat this like a mantra in my mind over and over until I felt that my problems were so small and insignificant. I told no one about them.
It took me a long time before I admitted to myself that I needed help. I talked to my mom about it and my family doctor, and finally I started to see a therapist. I went on meds, and the fog started to lift (after a long adjustment period).
So, why, after all of this time – when I consider myself in good mental health – does the idea that someone had it worse than me still haunt me?
I often forget that mental health stigma is not just in the mind of observers, but it festers in the mind of the hurting as well. Convincing myself that I was better off than other people who were experiencing similar things ended up harming me more than aiding me. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t people in harder situations. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t have amazing things in my life that should have been making me feel happy.
It only means that we are all different. Every mental health case is different, and everyone experiences emotions differently.
This stigma that my problems must be unimportant perpetuated my depression. I think it brings up important questions about how we deal with mental health patients. Acknowledging different upbringings, backgrounds and gender is so important. But, we cannot compare them.
We must not.