Dear diary, hello again. I read about clinical depression today, and I wondered how it relates to this feeling deep inside me. I can’t be depressed, can I? I don’t really know much about the professional definition of depression, but I know about my personal experiences. I know about going to class, being the center of attention, smiling and receiving hugs. I also know about that sick feeling deep down, that no one truly likes you or even cares about you.
I know about being the popular loner. The one who everyone feels is too cool to want to hang out; too smart to want to be involved in mundane conversations. I know about taking okada to and fro, because you have no one to talk to, on the short walk home. I know about acting superhuman, and pretending not to notice the rumors, the hands shielding smirking faces, as you walk into a room, dressed as uniquely as your mind wants to be, that day.
And do you know that every time I walk into a room, no one sees the insecurity in me? One morning I go to class, looking as good as I possibly can. But the moment I get there, I start gazing into my phone’s screen, wondering if I layered on my eye pencil too thickly. And then I wipe off half the sparse makeup on my face with my shirt sleeve. And then I roll up the shirt sleeves, like it’s the new cool. And I spend the entirety of that day wondering if there are dark spots all over my face, wondering if that cute boy is smiling at me because he’s secretly laughing at my inadequacy.
Does depression cover perfectionism? Or does this feeling of wanting too much come with the mental strain? Everybody says how beautiful I am, how brilliant. Men, boys chase after me. But the moment they get me, they relax. They slacken their grip, and fall far below my expectations. I’m not the problem, am I? I’m kind. I’m loving. I’m giving. But I always want reassurance. I want as much love as I am putting out. I want as much care, and they are simply not ready to give it. So I drift away and cling tighter, in the same breath. My grades sadden me, and the moment I think about my impending semester results, my stomach clenches and I have to use the toilet immediately.
Is depression crippling sadness? Because I think I might know what that’s like. Is depression sitting in one corner drawing your fingernails down your arms, and having a permanent indent in your bottom lip from biting too hard? Because if that’s it, I could maybe know what that’s like. People who are depressed, do they cry silently, shaking from head to foot, hands clenched, and the sorrow so deep within that it swells and compresses within the chest, threatening to choke you? Do they write heart-wrenching, dark poetry? Do they think briefly about flying out of their bodies, just leaving this world behind?
Is anxiety depression? Is anxiety even a thing? I mean, I’m African. We don’t get scared of stepping out of our doors. My heart is not supposed to beat so fast the moment I feel out of control. My stomach shouldn’t lurch so much, forcing me back in, to use the toilet and throw up into the sink. Why do I have to pinch myself very hard, to calm fears that pop up without any particular reason? Why am I scared of falling, so vividly that I have to sit down whenever it comes on? Why am I so scared of my loved ones dying, that it leaves me paralyzed for entire minutes? Why does human intimacy creep me out so badly? I want friends, but I am terrified the moment anyone tries to come into my personal space. I don’t want them in my head. I don’t want them to know me, because then they can see that I’m not perfect. That I’m not all knowing, that I also have inadequacies, insecurities, dependencies.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suicidal. At least I hope I’m not. I don’t actively want to die. It would be unfair to my parents, my family. I would never deliberately cause anyone pain, even at the expense of my happiness. Death would end all these, but I have too much to achieve. I want to win a Nobel Prize. I want to have children. But also, I want oblivion. I don’t want to stand up from this corner. I want to milk this pain for all its worth. I want…. God knows I don’t know what I want.
But don’t be worried, Diary. I’m definitely NOT suicidal. I smile. I take selfies. I shine in class, and I am my parents’ golden child. I have two suitcases of designer clothes and more shoes than I need. Of course I’m not depressed. Depression is a serious illness, that’s what Google! says, and I’m not ill. Maybe everyone is as sad as me, and is simply stronger and less whiney. Maybe I’m just ungrateful. Depression is all in my head. I’m fine, really.