8.31.2014

Afternoon Questions.


8.20.2014

My Depression.

It's quite infuriating every time mental illness becomes a 'hot topic' online. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter, and yet so few seem to actually know what they are talking about. I usually sit back, read sickeningly inaccurate articles, swallow my pride, and continue on with my life. However, this last go around surrounding the death of Robin Williams was too much to stomach. And so I decided it was finally time for me to share my story, in hopes that someone may find some kind of enlightenment/hope.




1. What my depression feels like:
Depression, for anyone who has known the disease, is incredibly hard to explain. This was the best way I could think of to explain mine.

This is what the average brain sees:

There's really no need to discuss what this is, because we all see what we're supposed to see- right? It's a yellow school bus, with a bright red STOP sign on the side. A beautiful blue sky in the background and a sturdy paved road beneath.


This is what a brain that suffers from depression sees:

And this is what people say:
"See the yellow. Come on, you know a school bus is yellow, see the yellow. You're telling me you can't see the blue sky? Why? Maybe you need to go for a walk and remember what a blue sky looks like. This is silly, just see the blue."

Look. Logically, I know that a bus is yellow, the sky is blue and a stop sign is red; but my brain won't allow me to see it. As much as I want to, I can't see it. The same goes for depression. I know that I should be happy, nothing awful is happening in my life. I know what it feels like to be happy, but my brain won't allow me to be happy.

It's important to remember that depression 'looks different' on everyone, and that's a piece of information people tend to forget.  

For some it lasts a year and is a result of a trauma.  Others have its burden from birth, and there are others who grow into it. For some it's hereditary and other's circumstantial. For some it's chemical, others it's physical. For some the road to recovery is a simple fix of diet and exercise. Others rely on  medication. Depression, while breeding similar side effects, does not have a 'one size fits all' remedy. Therefore it should not have a 'one size fits all' explanation. That being said, there are a few rumors that without a doubt are untrue and for once and all need to be put to rest!

2. Common misconceptions about Depression

Mind over matter.
After being diagnosed, my Mom had a really hard time understanding why I simply couldn't 'get over it.' After all, I had not had an accident and lost physical control over my brain.  That's where you're wrong. People with depression don't have all the control. It's actually terrifying how out of control you feel. I felt as though my brain were constantly betraying me. I was combatting my body's center of control that had already switched sides and was fighting for the enemy.

If you do happy things, you won't be depressed.
To say that happiness and depression can't co-exist in your mind is an invalid argument, because they aren't opposite of eachother. I could be in a field full of puppies, on a perfectly sunny 72 degree afternoon, surrounded by all my favorite people, and still feel happiness amidst depression. Depression is not just about being sad. It's about physical pain, hoplessness and having lost the ability to rebound from rough experiences like others normally can. 

Lack of spirituality is to blame.
Saying depression, as an illness has any form of spiritual cause is also untrue. Sure, as a Christian you can feel depressed and fall into sadness by not leading a Christ centered life; but as an illness, it is not representative of a lack of spirituality or relationship with God. I had someone say to me once that perhaps I was possessed by demons that triggered the anxiety and depression. They are lucky I didn't slap them. Stop claiming that mental illness has to do with spirituality, because it doesn't. I prayed fervently to God to remove the depression from me, and He didn't. Not because I was a sinner or unworthy, but because I had a chemical imbalance in my brain that needed medication.


3. The 'problem' we still have a hard time talking about

Whether or not you want to believe it, there is still a strong negative attachment to mental illness. Of course open dialogue is positively progressing; but we, as a society, are still too far from where we need to be.

Breast Cancer runs in my family. From a very young age I was consistently reminded by my Grandmother, Aunt and others that I needed to be aware and conscious of my family's disposition, in case I were to feel a lump. And yet, no one ever mentioned depression. It's a genetic monster, sometimes a silent killer, that is often overlooked. It was in my family. It wasn't until I had developed full blown depression resulting in anxiety attacks that I even knew my Father and Aunt both suffered from depression. Why wasn't this mentioned? Why wasn't I warned as vehemently about this disease as the other? It nearly cost me my life, and yet no one felt it was worth mentioning.

Depression has robbed parts of my life.  It has debilitated and killed several of my dreams.  It's ruined relationships and crumbled aspects of my faith. It's a predator that has been mislabeled by society and is continuously allowed to prey upon it's victims.

4. My personal story 

My depression was like a Stockholm syndrome of sorts. It's darkness slowly changed everything around me until suddenly I was forced, in one moment, to realize everything I had known to be true, had changed. I was always a happy, optimistic and outgoing girl growing up; never once thought about suicide. A few hard things in life happened, but I was able to rebound and pull myself back up. However, slowly throughout college, I dug deeper and deeper into despair.  Three years after graduating, everything around me collapsed. For four months I laid in bed thinking of ways to kill myself while constant, silent tears streamed down my face. For four months I could only leave my bed for work- and even that was the greatest trial of my existence. It took me pleading with two doctors that I needed medication, before a third one believed me. I'm now on my second kind of medication and it's still not fully working. For the first time in my life, I understood why people killed themselves.
After feeling bad for so long, you desperately want nothing more, than to feel good.

5. A conclusion

Let's all stop being so self righteous. Can we all, for a moment, stop acting like we have 'the answer'? Especially if you're not a medical professional. There's nothing controversial about mental illness, it's a disease like any other physical affliction of the body. It's not a moral dilemma.

Also, we need to understand that people with depression don't all have the same story, each cause and effect is incredibly unique. It would be highly offensive if I approached a woman with cancer, and not only told her how she got cancer, but also how she needed to feel, act and carry herself, even though I've never had cancer. It doesn't matter if i've had friends and family members who have lost their own personal battles with the disease. All that earns me is more of a solid platform on which to show her empathy, sympathy or compassion. So stop telling me how to feel about my disease. There is no debate, you simply don't comprehend. If you want to show me love, that would be wonderful. If you want to be my cheerleader, fantastic. But don't you dare judge me (leave that to God), and don't you dare tell me from your platform what I should be doing/feeling.  I would never dream of doing it to someone else. You don't know how Robin Williams felt in his final moments, but if it's even a tenth of what I experienced in my darkest moments, I can only say "I understand".