I control my depression, it doesn’t control me. Throughout most of my life, I’ve grappled with the weight of depression. For years, I believed it was just a natural feeling that everyone experienced. I never imagined that it would lead me down a dark path, causing me to lose my family before I realized I needed help. As a proud and masculine Latino man, the idea of seeking assistance made me feel weak. Unfortunately, that way of thinking nearly cost me my life.
I’ve often been described as having “smiling depression.” In social settings, I’m the life of the party, radiating optimism while concealing the turmoil within. In fact, I often feel guilty for experiencing depression. I have a wonderful family, a greater purpose in this world, and friends who love me. Yet, beneath it all, I continue to grapple with an unrelenting pit of sadness. It feels selfish to admit this when I know there are others who endure far greater suffering.
To regain control over my life, I’ve adopted various strategies to manage my depression. Engaging in regular workouts, attending therapy sessions, nurturing my relationships (especially my marriage), journaling, prayer, meditation, and maintaining this mental health blog have all proven helpful. However, I’ve also come to rely on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly known as antidepressant medication.
For a long time, I was embarrassed by my need for medication to cope with my depression. However, without it, life can become overwhelmingly difficult to bear. On the other hand, relying solely on medication without practicing self-care and the activities that bring me solace can also be overwhelming. I’ve learned that I need both medication and self-care in order to lead a fulfilling life. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking medical intervention to help us live to our fullest potential.
When I reflect on why it was so challenging for me to start taking medication, I realize that cultural influences played a significant role. As a masculine Latino, I felt inferior and weak for relying on a daily pill to function. This kind of thinking is precisely why many men find it difficult to ask for help, even from their loved ones. It is also a major factor contributing to the high suicide rates among men.
It’s time for a change. Cultural expectations should not dictate what is needed for anyone’s well-being. I’ve come to recognize that seeking help and incorporating medication into my treatment plan is a sign of strength, not weakness. By sharing my experiences openly and honestly, I hope to break down the barriers that prevent men, especially those from diverse backgrounds, from seeking the help they need. Together, we can challenge these harmful stereotypes and foster a culture of acceptance, compassion, and support.
I control my depression because I choose to fight back. It may be a lifelong battle, but I’m determined to reclaim my happiness and help others do the same. No one should suffer in silence, and by standing together, we can rewrite the narrative surrounding mental health… Later.