My friend Jess over at Milky Robot, has been posting about self love so I thought I'd open up a bit about me and some things I've dealt with. This subject is extremely close to my heart. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 13 but I suspect I had it even as a child. Mental illness runs deep in my family especially on my Mother's side. My great-grandmother is bi-polar, my great aunt (her daughter) had schizophrenia, my aunt has dealt with severe depression, and my mother had debilitating panic attacks.
Mental illness is something that is so hard for someone without it to understand. It's very easy to tell someone that they just need to pick themselves up and pull through. I liken the feeling to being trapped in your own mind, not knowing what is real and what isn't. Depression feels like being stuck at the bottom of a well that's been sealed off. There is no hope for the future despite how well their life might be going. Depression warps your sense of reality into absolute darkness. Sleep becomes a place of refuge because it passes the time without you having to live through it.
When I was in high school, I felt like I was drowning. I was behind in my classes from not turning work and that was putting me back about a year from my graduation date. Everything seemed hopeless and I didn't see a way out. I was suffocating from my own mind. I had been on anit-depressants since my diagnosis and they just didn't seem to be working. A few months before what was to be my normal graduation, my parents decided to let me dropout and get my GED. I know that sounds radical to some, but I needed a change desperately. I had "attempted" suicide because I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to die because I could never do that to my family but I felt like I was the walking dead already. I had also taken to cutting myself. I quit school and took my GED a couple of months after the rest of my class graduated. I passed with flying colors and enrolled in community college. The first term went great and I got a 4.0. Then things came crashing back down. I eventually decided that school wasn't for me. I have never regretted my decisions regarding dropping out or not going to college, but I know it's not for everyone.
After I got married, my anxiety kicked into full gear. I was having panic attacks almost daily and they were driving both me and my new husband (who had never dealt with sort of thing) crazy. Because I've always thought counseling was a crock, I started taking Klonapin twice a day. After we moved to California, I finally gave in and saw a therapist who helped me through my anxiety and I am proud to say I am completely off anti-anxiety medication. I still have flare-ups occasionally, but I am able to control it much better and haven't had a full blown panic attack in over a year.
My depression has also gotten better and I've been slowly decreasing my medication. I hope to be off of it altogether sometime next year. I never thought I would be happy. I have down days and even a down week but overall I am so happy with life. I have plans, hopes, and dreams! I'm not saying I'm perfect or totally "fixed". I do still deal with OCD (which will be another post) but I have overcome so much.
It breaks my heart that there is still such a social stigma about mental illness. Just because you can't physically see something wrong doesn't mean that someone isn't trapped in the mind prison. It is the same as a physical illness and needs to be treated as such. If you know someone dealing with depression or anxiety, just remember that it's a constant struggle. They probably feel trapped and have no hope because they don't know what to do. They are not crazy, not seeking attention, and not full of crap. They are hurting.
If you have depression or anxiety, it can get better! I am living proof that things will not always be like they seem they are now. The people around you care and probably just don't know how to respond to you. Open up about how you feel! I found that I couldn't articulate it properly to my husband, so I wrote it in a journal and then would let him read it. Also, seek help. Like a physical illness, this isn't something you can overcome by ignoring it. There is absolutely no shame in medications and therapy. You are not crazy, not seeking attention, and not full of crap. You are hurting and you deserve to be happy. It's hard work and not an easy road but it is a road nonetheless; you are not in the wilderness.
If you have read through this far, thank you. This is from the bottom of my heart and something I am very passionate about. I am not ashamed to tell people I have depression or anxiety. It's not something to be pushed into a corner. The more people that are open about what they are going through, the more people will understand.
For the update to this post check this out. I'm now completely off medication!
Please be respectful in the comments. I am not saying drugs are for everybody but they have worked for me. Any hateful or disrespectful comments will be deleted.
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