Earlier this week, Kid Cudi revealed on Facebook that he had checked into rehab after suffering from depression for years. As I read his letter, I was struck by his repeated mentionings of feeling ashamed and guilty. I recognized those feelings from my own fight with depression. And it’s not just because we’re sad and can’t get over it; these are literal symptoms of a mental illness. Cudi’s spoken previously about how he used drugs to try to fix his depression. He had so many symptoms for so long, but only got help when he thought suicide was an answer. Why does that happen? I can’t help but wonder if he thought he wasn’t sick enough.
People need to see their symptoms for what they are, but the public perception is still skewed. When looking at mental illness as an outsider, it seems like there are two ways you can experience it: high functioning, successful, open about it, and everything’s great (for the most part), or be suicidal and need hospitalization until you get to the former. There is no in-between. It doesn’t surprise me that Cudi suffered for years before finally seeking help. He’s not the only one.
I couldn’t decide what to write about this week. That’s a symptom of depression: trouble making decisions, along with focusing, and remembering. (Which is kind of funny because after I looked up the symptoms, I completely forgot what I was going to write next.) Up until last week, even after having some form of depression and anxiety for the last 14 years, I didn’t know my indecisiveness could be caused by my mental illness. It’s a symptom that I’ve lived with every day for half my life, so it’s not surprising that I didn’t recognize it. I really shouldn’t be surprised when other people don’t recognize it either; it’s a character trait, a quirk, not a clue to my invisible illness.
My loss of interest in work, seeing friends, and eating are all symptoms as well. I’ve been diagnosed with these exact characteristics before. But this time, for over two years, they disguised themselves as dealing with my unemployment, introverted personality, and diet to lose weight. (Weight gain is another symptom.) It’s easy to lose sight of what’s happening when you’re being consumed. I didn’t see myself as sick enough. Luckily for me, my partner knew there was something different. He confronted me and I finally saw I needed help again. Others aren’t as lucky.
It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week and a lot of great articles have opened a dialogue. Any public awareness is a great achievement. We’ve come very far with how the general public sees mental illness. Unfortunately, it’s often shown as black and white. I often see a message at the end of articles about seeking help if considering self-harm or suicide. That warning might already be too late. Knowing the extremes of an illness is important, but as with any sickness that takes lives, it’s critical that we identify symptoms before it gets to that point.
I implore you to share with your loved ones, friends, neighbours, and co-workers all the symptoms you experience. Speak to someone if they’re showing just a hint of mental illness. Every bit of knowledge can help save lives, because it’s the subtle shades of gray that we need to see if we hope to save each other from being swallowed by the black.
About Whitney Reyes
Whitney has always loved writing. Before she was first diagnosed with depression and GAD at 17, she started sharing her thoughts with the world on her blog. After completing journalism school, her mental illness came back with a vengeance. She's now writing about her experience on Healthy Minds Canada and social media. You can follow her on Twitter and read her other work on her personal website.