• Jacob West

The Dreaded Paper

Updated: Apr 2

Paper, a simple invention. It is the representation of its writer’s power. This power can hold us back, or it can encourage us to take the next step. It can let us see with clear vision, or with no vision at all.


Yet I am not looking to write a post on the abstract power of paper. Instead, I hope to address one paper. A simple paper, single-sided, Times New Roman, double-spaced, and equipped with just the right-sized headers. Every six months I faced this paper. And every six months I faced the same issue. I was “forced,” more forced by myself than anyone else, to lie my way through the semi-annual depression screening.


The questions would always begin harmless. Have you had a poor appetite? Do you feel tired? Simple questions, but the simple answers are not what they are after. As clear as an inverse relation graph can show, with each question growing in significance, my confidence got smaller and smaller. The time between each question extended rapidly. Questions like, Have you been feeling hopeless about the future? and Have you been feeling blue? became trickier to maneuver.


This trend continued until I was stuck. I was stuck debating whether to answer with how I felt or with how I should have felt. What I actually thought or what I was told to think. I usually solved this issue by turning to my mother. She told me what I should think. She was good at that, always has been. She told me the excuses I needed to hear to feel normal. With her help I was able to maneuver and lie through the questions successfully for years.


Years went by and paper after paper I was faced with the same questions over and over again. Each time I read them, they got worse. Severity grew from 4 to 5, which later grew to 6 and then to 7. Questions that I could once confidently check off became questionable. Questions that were questionable now became impossible. Impossible until the normal was gone. Until the moment I accepted that I may just be “abnormal” after all.


On that day, that day when I accepted my “abnormality”, I looked at the paper and I answered the questions. I answered them all. It felt good to tell the truth. I didn’t really know why, but I just felt satisfied. Not an hour after leaving the office, I received a call from the nurse who gave me my semi-annual paper. I heard concern in her voice. Over the phone, she asked if I knew what I had written, how I had answered and what it meant. I said of course I do. She asked if I was getting help. And I said of course I was. She said okay, have a nice day, and hung up.


That was it. Years of fear from telling the truth... for that. For a two-minute phone call. It is amazing how extreme our imagination can inflate these situations. I mean come on, I was expecting something. No screaming or crying on the phone in protest of my answers? Not even a call to my parents informing them of my possible condition? Nothing.


Fear can be such an unnecessary emotion. Fear is the anticipation of pain and danger. Normal is also such a relative and frustrating word. Therefore, it can be concluded that fear from not being normal could quite possibly be the most pointless source of pain for anyone experiencing it.


Many people in this world live their day to day lives in fear of pointless social norms. In fear of standing out, and being vulnerable. These fears are destructive and limiting. I don’t know if they can be erased, but I believe they can be addressed.


I used to think sadness was weakness, so I lied. Now, I see it as neither good or bad, it just is. Instead, the power lies in the truth. The truth was that I was depressed, and the truth was not going to go anywhere until I addressed its power in the first place. Don’t let fear hold you from the truth because without our truths comes merely the power of our representation rather than ourselves.


Image credit: psychologies.co.uk

#MentalHealthAwareness #MentalHealth #Stigma #Depression #Truth #DepressionScreening

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