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This story was written by Hannah Ribbens from the USA.

I have always wanted to be in the military. It has interested me for years, and I came so close to joining multiple times, but it was never the quite the right time. Now that I am finishing my masters degree in Public Health, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to serve my country and go on an adventure.

In addition to finishing up my masters and moving across the country, I also discovered that I needed to be on antidepressants. I had been struggling with depression for ten years, but I did not understand until recently that other people did not feel that way. After ten years of dealing with it, how was I to know that the way I felt was not normal?

Getting on proper medication was a game changer for my life. I used to wake up every day and push myself so hard just to get anything accomplished. I no longer struggle to do all of the things that I do and projects I want to accomplish. Before, I would desperately want to meet up with friends and go for a run or play volleyball, but it was so overwhelming. Now I feel like I am the person I was meant to be. I never had a difficult time accepting the fact that I needed antidepressants because the problem is simply biological. To me it was the same as needing to take iron supplements to donate blood.

Now I feel like I am the person I was meant to be.

So, imagine me, feeling on top of the world and excited about the future and possible adventures, and contacting the local military recruiter to discuss my joining the army. We met at a coffee shop, and the recruiter seemed very friendly and knowledgeable. I brought out my list of questions before I remembered that I should probably ask about their policy on medications. The conversation was over almost before it began. There is a rule that you have to be off any medications like the one I was taking for a year before the army considers letting you join.

I was crushed. I had never before felt embarrassed that I was on antidepressants. I felt like I was damaged – incomplete. I lived with depression for ten years before getting help; I know that I am trustworthy, and yet I was told that I could not get a security clearance in my condition. “My condition”? I felt broken. I felt as if the recruiter was looking at me differently, and that he thought of me as fragile.

Sometimes it is still tempting to wallow and feel sorry for myself, but I know better. I know that I lived with depression for ten years while moving multiple times, getting myself through college and school, living through my parents’ divorce. I know that I am strong and capable, my medication just makes it easier to be so. I know that Marilyn Monroe said that imperfection is beauty. I know that what on the surface appears to be a weakness is often a strength. I have come to realize that although there is often a social stigma against depression, it simply means that I am unique, strong, and have specific talents that I can use to help others.

I refuse to let my need for medication define me. I am a strong, wonderful person, and I will use my unique talents to share, and not shame, other wonderful, unique people.

This story was part of Safety First for Girls (SAFIGIs) #SharingNotShaming campaign.

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