I have ADHD and depression. Over the past few years, that, plus the stress of trying to do well while starting high school through distance learning, drove me to self-harm and intense suicidal thoughts.
I come from a culture that too often discounts mental health problems. Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, my parents told me I was just lazy. When I was first struggling with depression, it took me a long time to build up the courage to tell them. I know what it’s like to have a parent tell you that you’re faking your depression for attention and that your problems aren’t that bad because “everybody feels sad sometimes.”
I also know how it feels to struggle with mental health while still aiming for high achievement. My first psychiatrist told me that I didn’t need ADHD medications because I was doing fine in school. He didn’t realize how I would struggle at 3 a.m. while desperately trying to finish assignments that I just couldn’t get myself to do. Or how many “mental health days” I had to take after waking up without the will to get out of bed. For months, I felt bad for using my 504 because I didn’t seem like someone who “should” need it. I wish more people would understand that you may look like you have it together while you’re silently cracking under the pressure.
I’m a straight, cisgender boy. Toxic masculinity tells boys that, to be men, they must keep their real feelings private, can never show emotion, and can never express themselves. I’ve never felt comfortable sharing my mental health struggles with my friends. I started experiencing depression in middle school, and it was much worse during the pandemic. To this day, I still find it difficult to tell people that I have depression and see a therapist, though I have finally found some people to confide in.
At my lowest point I felt so suicidal that my mom took me to the emergency room. It’s so easy to get caught up in shame and self-hatred, to embrace a destructive mentality that’s irrational in hindsight but, without anyone else to point it out, makes perfect sense. After years of searching for solutions, from different medications to experimental drugs, the treatment that I found most effective was lying in plain sight—reaching out to the people around me.
Over the summer, I met some amazing people who accepted me and invited me into their circle. One day, someone off-handedly mentioned that they were struggling with depression. No one ridiculed or mocked him; instead, people gave him nothing but support. Because of this experience, I tentatively started reaching out to more and more people I considered friends but who didn’t really know me. How could they have when I never had the courage to open up to them before?
They gave me the confidence to share things that, until this point, I had faced alone. They responded with nothing but support and kindness, and I realized that, as scary and difficult as my struggles were, I wasn’t alone.
Nearly everyone knows what it feels like to struggle with mental health. Even if they don’t have a condition like depression, they know what it feels like to be hopeless, anxious, or terrified. Don’t underestimate how much people will accept you if you just give them the chance. You might encourage other people to share their stories. Even while you’re suffering, know that you don’t have to suffer in silence.