Ever since day one I’ve wanted this to be public—I’ve never been good at keeping secrets. Part of me is relieved that I can publish this anonymously, but part of me is also sad that this isn’t a dialogue meant for the public.

I live in a closet.

Six years ago was the first time I heard the voices. It was like someone turned on a radio, and suddenly there was a broadcast about how I was worthless, how I deserved every broken relationship and every bad grade, how I let down my parents, my friends, myself. The voices told me to hurt myself, kill myself and not to bother being clean about it because nobody would notice anyway. For the first time in my life, I thought I was crazy. I wrote down everything in a notebook and hid it under my bed, hoping that if I could hide what they were saying, the voices would leave me.

My parents found the notebook not long after I hid it. Stupid me, thinking I could keep things from them. They sat me down, told me how everything would be OK. This was nothing but a chemical imbalance, “just like having diabetes or needing glasses,” my dad said. He said we would go to the doctor, I would take some medicine and I would be just fine. But I wasn’t. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with schizoid anxiety and depression. I started going to a therapist and taking antidepressants. I believed that a chalky pill and $200 therapy appointments would make me normal. I hoped to get better, like my mom said, in no time.

I live in a closet.

No time became a month, then three, then a year, then long enough that now the receptionist knows my name and birthday and can recognize my favorite outfits based on how often I wear them. I have lived this chapter for a significant portion of my life, and has it affected me?

In more ways than I can count. My therapist is one of my closest confidants. I am so reliant on my medicine that I’m sure it’s a form of addiction. I don’t trust myself to be alone ever, because when I’m alone I hear the voices. Because of this, needy, clingy and desperate are often used when describing me. I’ve learned to keep it together so well that even I question my own emotions. I overcompensated in high school, always looking for validation for the things I could do right. I always kept busy and graduated with a 4.0 GPA, a Duke acceptance letter and the terror of having three months alone with nothing but my thoughts, my voices—my hell.

I live in a closet.

On the surface, you would never guess my story. For all you know, I could be the guy on the C1 looking at his phone, or the girl at the other table, eating her ABP salad. I could be your dorm mate, your hall mate, even your roommate. Such is the nature of the disease, I guess—there are no telltale signs of it. Nobody is going to have a runny nose because of anxiety, run a fever if they’re schizophrenic, lose their hair once they go on antidepressants. There are no blood tests, urine samples or DNA analyses that can say for sure, “Yes, you have depression.” We as a society do not know enough about the disease to say for sure who has it and who doesn’t, yet we assume that I can’t hold down jobs, am not reliable, am overemotional and lazy and don’t know how to handle my feelings. And so I hide behind the mask that I have spent years molding to society’s expectations. I live in fear that one day someone will find out my secret, the mask will come off and suddenly, people will look at me and see my anxiety. Every day I wonder, am I the only one?

I live in a closet. Am I alone?

The author of this column has chosen to remain anonymous. Please send an email to chronicleletters@duke.edu if you would like to contact the author.