Maybe yes, maybe no. As I thought harder about it, a lot of my old insecurities surfaced again. I'm not naive—I know depression conjures up unflattering mental images, and rightly so. It's a messy illness and it can be hard on relationships and families. Maybe telling his parents was a dumb idea. Maybe I should have waited until I knew them a lot longer. Maybe I'll get sick again and they'll think I'm damaged…weak…crazy…not worth the trouble…and then I'll go and prove them right.
Bouts of depression aren't something I can control. I know that. But the stigma around the disease has caused me a lot of shame. Depression is not like an STD, which you can keep really, truly private if you want. When someone who is depressed withdraws from their friends and family, stops eating and sleeps all day, it's obvious that something is wrong. It doesn't help that I used to truly believe my uncontrollable sadness meant I was broken in some way. I didn't want to tell anybody about what the chemicals in my brain were doing to me because I thought they'd run away. Worse, I believed not being able to control my feelings and thoughts made me weak. I used to tell myself I should feel happy about my job and family and friends, but I didn't because I wasn't trying hard enough to be happy. Other people would just think I was silly, spoiled or annoying if I was honest about how sad I felt sometimes.
None of those beliefs are especially helpful for a sick person, of course. Eventually, my parents and my sister were able to convince me that the stigma I felt about having depression was a problem, maybe even a bigger problem than the illness itself. They were right, of course, and lo and behold, when I trained myself to stop being obsessed with shame, nobody who I told about the depression ditched me. In fact, I even met the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.