“You have everything going for you.”
It is a phrase a number of us have heard, perhaps frequently, and that I resent, for complicated reasons.
On paper, I live a very privileged life: I was born in Manhattan and grew up in Greenwich, CT. I attended a private boarding school just outside of Princeton, NJ for three years, then graduated from a small liberal arts college in central New York. Now, I’m working at a small marketing consulting firm near my hometown. I have a fun, loving, and understanding girlfriend of over three years.
And despite all of this, I suffer from depression and anxiety.
When people wonder why, when their disbelief is tangible, the guilt only gets worse.
The first time this was said to me was my freshman year of college, by a close friend who also has depression and anxiety. She and I came from very different backgrounds; she was born and raised not far from our university (not far is, admittedly, relative when one is surrounded by farmland), and had to take on debt to afford her schooling.
She frankly couldn’t believe that we had the same mental illnesses, but was understanding of my situation. Together, we commiserated and became attached at the hip, each acting as the other’s support system. Even in silence, it was comforting being with someone who understood what I was going through. We went on like this for most of freshman year, leaning on each other through the trials and tribulations, but eventually drifted apart. Other people, as we all know, aren’t as kind to our condition.
Hell, now, even my psychiatrist thinks I have no real reason to see her regularly anymore, although I still do drop in with some regularity. While that sounds cold, I can’t help but think that everyone, including her, is right. And that only compounds the guilt.
Put simply, I feel silly for being depressed, and then feel even worse for not being able to overcome the issue.
Maybe, due to the stereotypes surrounding those with mental illnesses, society as a whole assumes that depression and anxiety only affect people whose quality of life is subpar. People who, like my former friend, have debt with no real way to make up the difference. We were collectively shocked last August when we heard Robin Williams took his own life. How could a man who experienced such success and brought laughter to so many for so many years hide his demons so well? And I am sure, had he confided his troubles to anyone, the response would be the same:
“But you have everything going for you.”
But, perhaps he did not disclose his plight to his friends. I personally am loath to tell anyone, even my best friends, that I have anxiety and depression because I know exactly what they will say, as Mr. Williams may have too. I’ve lost friends over my situation.
I fear that they will think that I am just an entitled preppy kid, incapable of handling the stresses of life. After all, it has worked out well for me so far. Am I just selfish for worrying about whether or not I can have the same standard of living as that of my parents? Vain for feeling that a top school and an objectively great job still don’t quite measure up to the successes my peers? Am I just whining? I fear that some of you reading this will feel exactly the same way.
I couldn’t blame you.
The author graduated from college in the spring of 2015. Art by Rebecca Heilweil.