Kid Cudi is a brave man. Speaking openly about something that is shameful for many people, takes true bravery. There are far too many that suffer in silence for years without detection. I happen to be a fan of the guy, I affectionately call, “the Man on the Moon”. He is strange and out there and quirky and I love every bit of it, because I can relate. I’ve always felt quirky and out of alignment with the rest of society. One of my favorite songs of his is “Pursuit of Happiness”. Until today, I never really gave the lyrics much thought. Today I realized there seems to be something hidden beneath the lyrics of the upbeat anthem. Back when it was popular, I just thought that is was a cool anthem that had a positive outlook. I was wrong. I listened more carefully to the lyrics and it became clear that he was struggling. He opens up the song talking about smoking weed, then he spends the rest of the song basically saying that other people don’t understand his pain and his struggle. At the end of the last verse, he confesses that he’d rather lie awake in a bed full of sorrow. That sounds like depression to me, but I missed it, and I missed it for years and that’s one of the biggest problems with depression.

I’ll admit that I’ve recently come out of what I didn’t know was depression. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t know. I think I always kind of felt that way and didn’t know how unhealthy my thoughts were. I am thankful that my depression never led to suicidal thoughts, but I have at many intervals, felt hopeless. A lot of things had to fall apart in my life before I really recognized the seriousness of my condition and start to piece it back together. I have never been to therapy, nor have I been on medication. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have helped, but financially, it wasn’t feasible. Instead, I decided to change some key things about my life. I began working out, I began focusing on what I ate, and looking for ways to change my outlook. I realized that in many ways I had created my own negative environment and that I actually am the key person that decides my reality. I know now that the world is what you make it. Your reality is simply the sum of all of your feelings about your life. If you don’t like it, then you must actively change how you feel about it. We have a lot more power over our minds than we give ourselves credit for. I didn’t know that while I was going through it, but that was my experience.

I want to put emphasis on the fact that that was my experience, because I feel so much healthier today than I did 10 months ago, but my experience is very different from many others, and maybe they aren’t able to just change their outlook without the help of a therapist or medication. I believe that each one of us has a fighter in us, but sometimes it gets hidden beneath the deafening disease of depression. I have been to low places, and sometimes I still get waves of that feeling. But when that happens, I search my soul and I find a way to fight for my happiness. For me, going to the gym has helped me bring out the fighter that I didn’t know was inside of me.

What I want you to remember is that depression does not always look like you think it should. It could be in a successful person, or it could laugh a lot, it could be funny, it could be creative, it could enjoy being social, it could be a lot of different things. I have never said out loud and publicly, how much pain I was in a year ago. I just fought it out on my own. I was surrounded by loving people, but I never talked to them about my pain. I felt shame about it and still do when the topic comes up. I want to put that shame to bed and I want to acknowledge that it is part of my story. It is part of many people’s stories, but the problem is, for too many it is the only chapter of their story. They don’t see a way out and they continue to exist in a dark room, figuratively and literally, until their life ends, intentionally or naturally. I am grateful that I am learning for the first time what happiness feels like, and I feel sad that so many will never know what that feels like.

Let’s get rid of the shame and stigma surrounding depression. We all struggle, some a little more or a lot more than others, but we can all relate. Pay attention to signs like, un-returned phone calls, lack of energy, constant anger, recklessness, hopelessness, little activity, sleeping a lot and/or eating a lot. Do not flat out ask the person “are you depressed?” Frankly, you won’t get the answer you’re seeking. Remind your loved ones of how amazing you think they are and if they don’t believe you or have doubts, share your struggle with them and leave the door open for them to open up too. Invite yourself over to their house, don’t wait for them to invite you over. Share with them how much better you feel after you did ____, and invite them to do it with you. Sometimes people experience a momentary sadness and it’s not full fledged depression. If these tips do not seem to work and you continue to see them spiral, then it may be time to take it more seriously. Sit them down, and from a place of love, express how much you care about them and how much you want them to be happy and that they deserve happiness as much as anyone else. Explain that therapy has been proven to help a lot of people manage their feelings and work through them and maybe it is something that would help them. Offer to go with them (if they would like) and/or sit with them to make the appointment, and just comfort them through whatever they may feel or not feel. Reassure them that you will always be with them through the tough stuff and make yourself available as much as possible to be “their person”. If everyone could commit to showing this level of love for those that are struggling, I know we can get rid of the stigma and help everyone get the mental health help they need. We need all hands on deck to end the silent killer of depression.

These tips are additional resources for understanding what depression is and how to help: