photo: iStock

Like many teenagers around the world, I secretly suffered from depression growing up. In order to cope with my pain, I cut. Every single day I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I was drowning. Cutting provided me the breath of fresh air that I needed to get through another day. Cutting allowed me to take away my own pain without hurting anyone else, I did not want their sympathy. 

The fact of the matter is, cutting causes the brain to release endorphins providing temporary relief from the emotional pain. These endorphins cause an actual high, this high, or euphoria, becomes extremely addictive. I have often heard people say that individuals who cut only harm themselves because they are “seeking attention" but that couldn't be farther from the truth. I was very depressed and everything I heard around about the disease didn't make it easy to tell people about it. I heard everything from, “It’s all in your head!” or “You aren’t depressed, you’re just bored.”

As I practiced how I would come out to my very old school Hispanic parents about my depression, I could already hear their unsupportive ideas of how my depression was just a figment of my imagination. But it wasn’t. Depression is very real. Depression is what happens when you let your anxiety beat you and I had already lost that battle. 

Related From Vivala: Why Young Latinas Are at a Higher Risk for Depression

Although I knew just what I wanted and needed to say, I couldn’t find the courage to say it aloud. Asking my parents for help felt like I was the problem instead of the victim.

Society has taught us that if we ignore things, they will go away and cease to exist. That’s why my mothers reaction when she finally noticed my scars, took me by no surprise.

“Stop petting stray cats,” she replied after I fed her some bullshit story about being scratch by a cat. Twenty-six years later, my parents still do not ask me about my scars. I no longer hid them either. They are my daily reminders of my will to live. Eventually I stopped cutting and it's all thanks to my best friend Eric — the only person who really knew why I started cutting in the first place. 

Related From Vivala: Coping With Your Dad's Depression

My depression hit an all time high after I was raped my eight grade year of middle school (I never pressed charges). But Eric was my voice. He told his best friend, who then told the school principal who then called my parents to come into school. I was brought down to the guidance counselor’s office and for once my parents had to face the facts. Just because you ignore something, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 

Once I had the support I needed, I stopped cutting. I found a different and healthy way — through music, art, and writing — to alleviate my depression. Having support can make a hell of a difference in how a person deals with depression. Nothing in life is permanent, not the positive or the negative, not even depression. 

On September 10, I posted a photo of my scars along side my semi-colon tattoo on my Instagram. I didn’t do it for “attention,” I did it to raise awareness in light of World Suicide Prevention Day. I wanted to be a voice for all those people like me couldn’t find the courage to ask for help. You can not help prevent something that isn’t spoken about. 

Related From Vivala: Mental Health: A Taboo Topic, but Why?

After that post, an old friend from my middle school reached out to me and said,  “You might not remember me but my name is Lazarus. We went to ALK together back in 2002-2003. I moved to Florida. You helped me get through my depression and I would like to say thank you for helping me. I am married now with a lovely wife and a son. I saw your picture and I like to tell you that things do get better.” 

How could I at thirteen possibility help someone deal with their depression? Easy, I was a friend. I was kind. I listened. Kindness is free, sprinkle that shit everywhere! Because, to be honest, you never know how your one act of kindness may help. Please don’t ever make a person feel bad because they are depressed. It is not a joke, it is not all in their imagination. Depression is not a choice, it's a disease and many commit suicide because it is left untreated. 

Thank you for your message Lazarus, I will continue to do my best to help spread awareness and remind people that “this too shall pass.”  Today, I am neither a problem or victim, I am a survivor of my struggles.

Related From Vivala: E-Counselling Apps to Help Manage Mental Health

If you — or someone you know — needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.