One of the first things I did when I emerged from my three-day stint in the hospital for depression was start a blog. I titled it "Fruit of the Loon," always a fan of puns. I assumed no one would ever find it who would sue me for copyright infringement on the name of a slightly cheap underwear brand. I quickly wrote out everything that I experienced while in rehab. Sure, I changed names of my new friends and made sure to respect their stories, but mostly I wanted to get it all out of me. Writing about it acted as a way for me to make it more real and less personal. It suddenly belonged to the world and not just to me.
When I was done writing about it, I pitched it to Buzzfeed. I know. Ambitious. But I did. And when I did, I wrote the following description:
"Let me set the record straight: if I could write a "live fast, die young, bad girls do it well" pseduo-memoir a la Piper from Orange is the New Black, I totally would. No questions asked. I'd be telling the story of a bad bitch with a sassy Asian best friend and a knack for quoting fantastic classic literature.
But I can't because that's not me. Nor is it most of the United States population, as I understand it. You see, I'm an upper-middle class, white, 21 year old girl with clinical anxiety and depression who attends a predominantly Catholic university on the east coast. Now let me break that down statistically for you:
Upper-middle class: 15%
Anxiety disorder: 18%
College student: a surprisingly low amount
East coast: I'll estimate 40%
That means, statistically, my story is relatable to...oh, wow, about .0069% of the population. LUCKILY, that equals about 22,220 people in the United States alone. So for those 22,000 girls who find themselves in my position, this story is for you; and oh what a story it is to tell."
It's terrible, it's cheesy, but DAMN LOOK AT THAT NUMBER. 22,220! I'm no statistician or mathematician or any kind of -tician, but I repeat DAMN. That number is huge! Can you name 22,220 people in your life? That's a small town. We white, upper-middle class, depressed, anxious, college students could start a serious gang.
Flash forward two years. In order to prepare for We Are Alive, we needed to do market research. How do you begin to find out such personal information about people? Well, there's an app for that. Thanks, Google Forms.
But we in no way expected to have as high a return rate as we did. I'm talking 119 respondents to our survey. 119! I could take you through it and describe each of our results, but I'd rather let them speak for themselves. What I'm about to share with you is the general information gathered, not the personal qualitative data that was shared (if this was you, thank you for letting me into your world for a brief moment).
Alright. Here we go.
I'm not going to say I was right about being one of 22,220. Except I am. Guys! The majority of our responses were from millennial women who had recurring episodes of depression! I was right!
There's so much beauty in finding out this information. It shouldn't only be encouraging to me. It should be encouraging to every other girl who experiences depression in her twenties.
This doesn't discredit the other experiences out there. We still don't know exactly how these stories and statistics interact. Maybe the majority of the male population wrote back that they were depressed. Maybe the depression was experienced by the many people outside of their early twenties. There's no way to know.
But I for one am ecstatic, particularly about the last pie chart. 75.5% of responses indicated that the conversation about mental health was already happening. Imagine if we put this into everyday conversation instead of just with mental health professionals and immediate family and friends. The world would experience a social revolution. Why can't we make that pie chart reflect 100%?
So here is where I make my plea: if you are one of those people who indicated yes, please oh please let me share your story. Your story would add a voice to the 54.2% of our survey participants who clearly experience depression. Your story would potentially add a voice to the 22,220 I estimated when I was 21.
Let's do this together.