Before you read this article I want you to close your eyes for a couple of seconds and picture what someone with depression looks like…
My name is Matt Blackman, I captained 3 sports in high school, Soccer, Tennis, and Squash, all of which I won MVP for. I made the All-State First Team for soccer in Pennsylvania and was named an Academic All-American for my work in the classroom and on the field. I was also voted Outstanding Senior Athlete by my school. Off of the field I sang in the Chorus and led the mens A Capella group and had a lead role in our school musical and I have Major Depression and Anxiety.
What does that mean exactly?, Me and Depression go way back. The first time I dealt with depression was a couple of weeks during my freshman year, a few weeks became two months my sophomore year, six months my junior year, and the better part of my senior year. Each year it came back and it was stronger, more effective. Imagine a weight on your shoulders every second of every day. A weight that gets heavier and heavier as the time goes by. You lose motivation, you lose confidence, you lose yourself. Everything that once brought you joy no longer brings a smile to your face, a real smile that is. I smiled all the time, I lived my life as if nothing was wrong. Nobody could see the effects that depression was having on me. My lack of appetite, my inability to sleep through the night, my grades slipping in school. I hid away my pain, I hid away the sinking feeling in my stomach that I would never escape the darkness that had sucked the joy out of my life. Eeventually my pain became far too much for me to handle I seriously questioned whether or not I wanted to go on living, it would be easier just to give up, give in.
What about Anxiety? Well for me that means Panic attacks. In my case a panic attack feels as though a black hole opens in my chest, the following feeling of cold and complete/ terrifying emptiness makes functioning normally almost impossible. They don’t happen often but when they do, it is unlike anything else I know. There is no escaping them either. Good days and bad days alike there is always the possibility that an attack will strike.
So why am I telling you all of this? There is a stigma surrounding mental health. People don’t feel comfortable talking about it. It is hard for me to sit here and write about it. That shouldn’t be the case. Mental health is so important and people need to be exposed to the ways in which people experience their own mental health issues.
I started seeing a therapist about a month into the school year and was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety(about six months ago). Shortly after being diagnosed I started medication. Reaching out for help was a massive step for me. I tried to fight depression by myself for so long and I was not just losing, I was being destroyed. I finally started gaining some ground when I reached out to a teacher that I had freshman year. A man who I give partial credit too for me being here today. I sent him an email, a number of emails actually explaining what was going on in my head. The teacher I reached out too, A Zen Buddhist priest, had consistently been one of the happiest people on campus. I guess I wanted to know his secret. Through the lens of Buddhism, focusing on the appreciation of life and everything around us, he wrote me emails that put my feet back on the ground, that reconnected me with my surroundings. I had lost touch with the world. I had felt so isolated, floating alone in a cold, dark, and infinite space with nothing to grab a hold of. The contents of his and my emails I chose keep to myself. To this day I read his carefully crafted responses when I’m not doing well.
While these emails helped me temporarily it was clear that I needed professional help. So I talked with my parents and we found a great therapist for me, the man who gets the rest of the credit as far as keeping me around. To be truthful, I was skeptical at first as far a seeing him. Would he really care about my problems? Will I really be able to open up? I quickly realized that he truly cared about the people he was working with and all my doubts faded away. Immediatley after talking with him a little bit of the weight on my shoulders was lifted. Not only was the weight getting lighter but I was getting stronger. I developed tools to combat my depression. Despite my progress some weight was impossible to shake and because of that I started taking medication. About a month after starting antidepressant/ anti-anxiety medication I started to truly enjoy life again, something I hadn’t done for some time. Colors were brigther, food tasted better, waking up in the morning was no longer a chore, and going to bed at night was no longer an escape but instead a way to recharge for the next day.
But by the end of my senior year I had been on medication for some time and was in a much better place than before. I made this short called The End about what my last day could have looked like had I attempted suicide. you can check it out below
Through my character I explain some of the thoughts that were going through my head when I was at my lowest. For me, making the film was theraputic. I faced my demons head on and worked through my emotions via film. I wrestled with emotions that had previously tormented me and shaped my life. At the end of the short, when my character is on the edge of the bridge he gets a call from his mom that keeps him from jumping. For me my family was a major part of the reason I didnt let my emotions get the best of me. I couldn’t stand the thought of them suffering because of my actions. There are times when you are extremely depressed however, where you are unable to think of anybody but yourself. It’s all about you. your lonliness, your pain, your suffering. In those times you need something to bring you back to reality. For me it was the emails. For my character it is the phone call, for some its a text from a friend saying “whats up”.
Now this was my experience with depression and anxiety but every person struggles in different ways my battle continues. Sometimes depression breaks through and sucks the life out of you yet again. The important thing is I haven’t given up.
I will not give up.
I felt that is was important that I share my story with all of you because for the longest time I hid away my mental health problems. I put a fake smile on and went through life as if nothing was wrong. It is about time that I stopped hiding. There are a couple of things that I hope you to take away from this article:
I want you to have learned something about depression and or anxiety and how it can affect people.
I want you have a new perspective about discussing mental health issues and encourage you start a dialogue at home, at school, amongst your friends.Wherever you see fit
If you are someone struggling with a mental health issue, reach out for help. You don’t have to suffer in silence. You are not your depression, It can be beat.
Lastly I want you to be aware that anyone can suffer from a mental health issue. It is often the people who seem to have it all together that are struggling the most.
Thank you for reading.
Share with your friends