Let's talk about depression. I know it's everyone's FAVORITE subject, but, it's my blog so don't be a dick. In all seriousness, it needs to be discussed more. Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27) Women experience depression twice as often as men do, and regardless of racial or ethnic background or economic status. The lifetime prevalence of major depression is 20-26% for women and 8-12% for men. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1996). So it's chemical and it's prevalent in our society.
I just had an exchange with a co-worker about my mood change, "You're in a good mood today. What happened?" How do I answer without outting myself? Better yet, why should I be concerned with anyone knowing that I suffer from a mental illness? Because, "I'm Bipolar and someimtes adjustments in my medications can be severe on my mood," should be a legitimate response. But, fear takes over and I stumble around trying to come up with a reason why I'm noticably happier today.
Mental illness shouldn't be shameful. It's a medical condition. If I was hobbling around on a broken leg, I wouldn't attempt to hide it and hope no one noticed my crutches. I also wouldn't expect myself to heal immediately and with no symptoms or pain. So why is it, that when I have a depressive episode, I worry about what people will think? Sometimes I need help. I have brain in need of healing, instead of a limb, and my crutches are often words.
I can't always function at full capacity. However, even talking about it gives me anxiety that I'm burdening people. This isn't uncommon with mental health. If brain chemistry was a person, it'd be a sociopathic son-of-a-bitch. It often skews my perception of the truth and gives me a sense of duality that can be frightening. What I know to be true and what I feel are often contradicting. Depression wants me to believe that nobody cares to hear about what's happening, that there is an encumbrance in expressing myself to loved ones. But I know there are people willing to help and listen.
So I'm promising myself to be less timid about my experience. This blog is a fantasic outlet because it doesn't directly put pressure on friends and family regarding how I'm feeling, but allows me to freely relay this reality and inform those who may not understand how someone like myself operates.
I speak for myself. I can't know how anyone else happens to feel during their expriences, but I hope to capture some of the common sentiments of those who can't come forward. I want people to understand that the stigma around mental health is not scary. I've lost friends admitting that I suffer depression. The sadness of this, is that some people mental illness is dangerous. There is a fear of instability that I even buy into at times. However, I just have mood swings, sometimes within the same hour, that are more dynamic than simple joy or sadness.
When I'm depressed, I have trouble waking up. I'm drained to the point that getting up, even sitting up, is nearly impossible. I have to rally for a good while--convincing myself that I'm even physically capable. Sometimes I nap for hours, then go to bed for an extended period. On my day off, I slept for 15 of 24 hours this week. I could NOT stay conscious. If that isn't enough? There's the mental pain that accompanies the physical symptoms. Hopelessness, exasperation, loneliness, numbness..the list is ever growing and changing.
So what do we do? Start small. Read. Project Helping is a great place to start. Or if you are willing, be brave and share your story. It might inspire someone else who is feeling alone in their battle. It might save a life.
Today's subject line quote is from the late Carrie Fisher.
3 years ago