Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fear vs. Love

I've had an epiphany. 

I'm a coward. There I said it. I'm a scared little girl who doesn't want to grow up and face the future. 

At first I was ashamed of this, I denied it and tried to tell myself that wasn't the case. It's funny how you think you're fooling everyone when really you're not--you're just fooling yourself. 

What is the root of this fear? Why is it so powerful? Is there any way that I can face it? These are questions that I've been asking myself lately. It all started a few days ago when I was in a session with my therapist and I was talking about why I had been feeling so anxious and hadn't been sleeping well. I thought it was because of the fact that my father and I are moving--after all that is pretty stressful--and the fact that it's still pretty up in the air was stressing me out. Now my therapist is a good one because he has an excellent bullshit detector, however he has to bring it to your attention in a more professional matter. He asked me about school, which is usually a topic I avoid because I don't think it deserves any attention and it has nothing to do with how I'm feeling. 


It has A LOT to do with how I'm feeling--it's the primary source of stress and anxiety in my life. But why? is it because that's just how it is for college students? Sort of, with me there's always more to it than just the norm. It's the source of stress and anxiety because it's all I've known and it's beginning to draw to an end. I am literally a semester away from graduating and I should be happy but I'm not. I'm fucking terrified--I hate it it when people ask me when I'm going to graduate or how school is going. I hate it so much that I nearly snap at anyone who does ask. I don't want to move on. I'm stuck in a routine, one that I'm comfortable in but it's one that is poisoning my soul and keeping me in this quicksand like state.

I realized this when I was talking about the new Disney movie Frozen with him. I didn't realize how deeply I related to it until I was talking about it out loud. You see I don't just relate to Elsa, I am Elsa. 

Elsa is a girl who, when she was younger, embraced herself and everything that came with it; she loved life and what it had to offer and wasn't scared or anxious about what came around the next bend. However (as life often does) life threw a curve ball--something happened in her childhood that made her question everything, made her doubt, made her afraid. So she concealed who she was, holding it all in because she was afraid of what might happen if she let it go. One day she did and she ran away from it all, and for one fleeting moment she was free--everything felt...normal, she could be herself but she was alone, isolated, and she thought that is what she was destined for: to be alone where she couldn't hurt anyone. She was afraid to let the love in because it might hurt. She was afraid of her power, afraid of the future. 

Wow this is beginning to sound pretty familiar. 

Anyway because it is a Disney movie everything turned out okay. But see, we don't live in a Disney movie and it fucking sucks because then we would know for certain that everything is going to be okay.

I am afraid to move on. I am afraid to let it go. Why? I don't know yet. Maybe I think that the future is going to suck as much as parts of my past have, maybe I'm just afraid of uncertainty, or maybe I'm just afraid that I don't have what it takes. Hell, maybe its all of that. I can't really answer that question because I've just made this realization like four days ago. Epiphany's take time I've discovered...

I don't know what the future holds, I don't know if all of this college shit is going to be worth it, I don't know if I can live up to the expectations that have been set for me, I don't know any of this and it's terrifying for me. I'm a sensitive and deep feeling person that is her own worse enemy and harshest critic of herself--it sucks. 

There is one thing that I am trying to remember: On the other side of every fear is freedom. A freedom that I can't even begin to comprehend and a love that is beyond words. I should probably get it tattooed on my forehead because I'm having a hard time remembering it. But I am trying, and doing the best that I can. 

Why am I putting this out here for the world to see? It's therapeutic for one, it makes me feel less alone for another, and lets face it I do love attention. Well, that last part was just to be funny but in all seriousness I guess I just want people to know that if they are afraid that it's okay--that they aren't alone. Because isolation sucks, it's not helpful and it keeps you in a depressed state. I know that now. Now if I can just learn to let love in, and learn that on the other side of this mountain is a freedom that will be intoxicating I'll be okay. 

And you know what? I truly believe that I am going to be okay. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Three South: A short Essay on my time at PRMC

The cold, bright lights pierce my eyes as I came to. I remember checking myself in, but I don’t remember anything else. I have to try. Remember damnit. My thoughts are racing, I can’t focus on anything right now except the smells and how scared I am. This room smells sterile, like bleach and fear; the sterile smell seeps into my nostrils and stays there, mixed with uncontrollable sense of terror. I’m having a full blown anxiety attack, it’s hard to explain how those feel unless you have one so I’ll try: it’s an uncontrollable fear that grips your soul, your hands are shaky and sweaty, and your heart is pounding so loud that you can hear it ringing in your head like a bass drum, your stomach is in knots and you’re nauseated. The anxiety is so powerful that I can’t control my thoughts, all I can remember is I started to feel the depression envelop me as the anxiety set in; because my thoughts were racing I couldn’t think logically which led to this attack. I wanted to kill myself; I wanted to go home and take a knife and slit my wrists or hang myself in a doorway. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t control what my brain was saying. That’s why I’m here. I became a danger to myself.
My only companion at the moment is the camera in the corner that watches me, it’s making sure I’m not going to try to attempt to follow the suicidal thoughts that are plaguing me; they’ve made it nearly impossible for someone who is suicidal to commit to their actions in here: there’s no interior doorknob, the bed has no guard rails unlike other hospital beds, and the chair has no arm rests. The room is fucking freezing, even the blanket they gave me is cold and I’m trembling; of course at the moment I can’t tell if the trembling is from the cold or from the fear. They took all of my things: my purse, my phone, even my jewelry—all except my necklace with my mother’s initials on it, I told them it was the only thing that was keeping me sane. I fidgeted with it, tracing the initials with my fingertips, feeling the smooth gold underneath. It was all starting to become clear now; I was beginning to remember what led me to the ER.
I was walking back from class; it had been a particularly hard day. See when you have depression your days start weird. It’s almost like they start when you’re asleep, (at least for me anyway) if you have nightmares or don’t sleep well then you wake up feeling like shit already. For someone who’s “normal” they just grumble about it and have an extra cup of coffee, but for me it makes the fight to stay balanced even harder. Nothing feels right and nothing makes sense; you’re in a fog, you can’t concentrate, you can’t think, you can’t eat or drink, you can’t even see straight. All you can think about is how fucked everything is, especially you—you, you worthless piece of shit who can’t do anything right, who can’t understand even the simplest concept because your brain is all discombobulated. The struggle for me was that I knew that I could be better. I knew that I wasn’t worthless and that my family was proud of me and I could do this—but my mind was at a constant war with itself. It was almost like there were two different people living inside my brain. I even gave them personalities: One was gentle and compassionate, had the patience of a saint and would always try to build me up (which was a job in itself because I had a very low self-confidence rating anyway). The other was evil, my dark side that manipulated me into thinking that I was all of those things I mentioned. They would tell me to take the knife and slit my wrists, or take the rope and string myself up; they reminded me constantly of the darkness in the shadows at night.
The “darkness” I refer to is the face of the man—the teacher—who molested me—the man who caused me to be this way, who gave me my anxiety and constant fear. He did it when I was at my weakest: five fucking months after the death of my mom. He groomed me, led me to believe he was harmless when really he was the monster that I had always been warned about. It started when I was taking his class, I never thought that the extra attention he paid me was more than just sympathy. I was a stupid fourteen year old girl wrought with grief over losing her mother, what the hell did I know about things like that? It was at a time where that sort of stuff just didn’t happen, people didn’t talk about it.
Anyway back to the present.
As I mentioned before my day was shit already, I had nightmares all night and I was just tired, so tired. I didn’t remember what happened in class, and I felt so heavy, like someone had placed a boulder or something on my shoulders; I was walking back to the parking garage and I kept thinking “Something’s not right…I feel so overwhelmed. Something isn’t right! SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT!” I wanted to cry out and scream and cry all at once, I managed to make it to my car and I just lost it. My eyes were so full of tears that I couldn’t see, I couldn’t think, my throat was closing up so I was having trouble breathing, every fiber in my body was trembling. The anxiety was so bad that I could almost feel a noose tightening around my throat, constricting me like a massive boa constrictor. I looked down and could see the blood streaming from slices on my wrists even though there was nothing there. I was in deep shit. I knew if I went home I would try to kill myself, even though deep down I wanted to live so bad—I just was so tired. It was so loud.
So that’s how I got here. I remember now. I’ve finally fallen off of this great precipice that I had been struggling to stay on for years. I thought I had finally gone insane and they were going to ship me off to that hospital in Cambridge where they send all of the other crazy people. I was terrified.
The nurse comes in and starts asking me questions about my family history, and then proceeds to get into why I was here:
“How long have you been feeling this way?”
“A couple of days…it just got really bad and I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
“Have you ever tried to kill yourself?”
“No ma’am…just thought about it…”
“That’s good. You’ve taken the first step you know, the first step towards healing.”
“Then why am I so scared? I’m terrified, I can’t think—“
That’s when the tears came; I don’t remember what I said or even what happened after that. I know from my sister working in the ER that they most likely admitted me and were waiting for confirmation from the South wing of the hospital. They weren’t going to send me away, they were going to keep me here and treat me.
Three South. Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? The official name is the Mental Health Ward, it’s called Three South because it’s on the third floor in the southernmost wing of the hospital. It’s a place where people can recollect themselves, it’s not a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest situation, the most people stay there is a week. Because PRMC is small, the ward itself isn’t exactly spacious; it only has about ten to twelve rooms and each patient has to share a room with a patient with a similar condition and the same gender depending on the number of patients that were there at the time. After about two hours and one visit with my father later, I was whisked away to Three South. My dad came as soon as he could and we talked about why I checked myself in and what I would need in the coming days. He went home to pack my things and try to wrap his head around why his daughter finally went off the deep end. I wondered what he was thinking; was he blaming himself? I hope not, as a matter of fact he was the reason why I was still alive. I wanted so much for my brain to shut up, to stop confusing me by telling me I was worthless and I should just end it; it was because of him that the knife always fell to the floor or the noose was never tied. I didn’t want him to have to bury his daughter after having to bury his wife just twelve years before.
They go through all of your things when you get admitted, mainly to see if you’re carrying anything dangerous and to see if you’ll need anything out of your bags. They don’t let you keep a bag or anything in the ward, it’s considered a safety hazard because you or someone else could strangle themselves (remember we are in a mental health facility) with the strap or someone could steal your shit. So they keep your bags behind the nurses’ station which is a large, glass enclosed area across from the patient’s rooms. It was the central nervous system of the ward; it contained patient information, medication, and of course the most important element of the ward: the nurses. I was shown to my room and saw that they had taken a few things out of my bag and left them on a desk that was across from my bed. Along with my clothing, she had left my journal and a copy of T.S. Eliot’s poetry. The nurse that had checked me in was a tall, white-haired woman with gentle eyes but a stern disposition (I found that most of the nurses here had to have a firm, empathetic, and gentle disposition), she didn’t intimidate me but I wouldn’t cross her. She meant business but she also was patient and kind, she didn’t take any shit but she earnestly listened to you. She weighed me in (why in God’s name you needed to get on a scale is beyond me) and as she was doing so, a large black woman came up to us.
“Hi. I’m (insert name here), what’s your name?”
“Now (Patient name), let her get settled and then you two can introduce yourselves okay?” the nurse said
I was relieved that the nurse said that because I really wasn’t in any frame of mind to communicate with another patient at the moment. As she was completing the weigh-in, I got a good look at part of her chart:
Patient name: Lauren Ellen Wilson
Diagnosis: Severe Depression with suicidal ideation; severe anxiety.
Medications: Lexapro (10mg); Ativan (.05mg)
I was shown to my room, I would be rooming with another girl who had been here for two days and had the same condition I did and was around the same age. I was relieved to know that, and even more relieved when I met her:
            “Hi, I’m  (patient name). Looks like we’ll be roomies, you don’t snore do you?” she smiled
            “Not to my knowledge.” I laughed. She was funny and charming, with red hair and big blue eyes and freckles. Her presence was soothing, and I felt myself calming down.
            “Good. I think we’re going to be cool.”
I began to talk with her about the other patients, she told me that your room was really the only place where you didn’t have to deal with anyone except your roommate. The patients were all grouped together in the common area; it was where we watched TV, ate and off to the right was a separate room where group therapy was held. It was controlled, she told me that the nurses were really great and they kept things civil. She said that the food was…okay, but she could not wait to eat what she wanted. The patients were given a menu each day with breakfast, lunch, and dinner selections; you made your choice and that was it.
She introduced me to two other patients that came here at about the same time that she did. One was a man, who had an athletic build, like he played football, and he was real easygoing; despite this, he had a nervous breakdown and ended up here. Like my roommate, he didn’t seem like the type of person you would typically find here; it goes to show that a mental breakdown can happen to anyone. The other was a very sweet older lady who I later learned was manic, meaning she had extreme mood swings, going from elated to depressed in a blink of an eye, but she had no idea that’s what it was. My roommate proceeded to point out other patients and tell me their stories. There was a black man who was a manic depressant and an addict—he was addicted to pills and cough medicine. A guy who had made it all the way from Wilmington on a bus who smelled real bad when he arrived, she wasn’t sure what his issue was but he definitely wasn’t all there. He would sit and stare, fidgeting his left hand and leg while his bottom lip hung from his mouth and trembled. There was a woman who had severe depression; she spent her days in her sleeping clothes, wrapped in a blanket. There were days when she wouldn’t come out of her room, not even to eat; she would just be locked in her room with the curtains drawn and waiting for the darkness to take her. My roommate told me that she had been here almost two weeks. There was another girl who was about my age, possibly older, that just stood and stared; she just stood there staring off into oblivion as if the pain of a thousand sorrows weighed upon her mind. Occasionally she would stare at the wall and randomly bang her head, it was sad—she was trapped within the confines of her illness. Then there was the large black woman I mentioned earlier. We weren’t quite sure what her issue was—we knew that it had a lot to do with hallucinations and delusions—but we did know that we tried our best to avoid her. Not that she was dangerous or anything, she was just so damn annoying. She was loud, often obnoxious, had no sense of personal boundaries, and her comments were often lewd, inappropriate, and outrageous. She talked of her nonexistent husband and how she didn’t need him, she would often sing gospel songs at ungodly hours of the night, and she would often take the food right off of your tray if you weren’t careful. Despite all of this, I still maintained a feeling of empathy because her case was a tragic one; she was not really that person, the person she is and desires to be is trapped within the walls of the illness. That could be said for anyone here, including myself, the person that you want to be and the person that you are is trapped within and you have to figure out how exactly to release them.
My first night was not a successful one. I slept badly. The unfamiliarity of the place, the goddamned construction going on, and the fact that I was terrified beyond any sort of description all contributed to my poor sleep. I refused to take the Ativan that I was prescribed that night, mainly because I was too lazy to get out of bed to go get the pill—I was exhausted and was not leaving that bed unless there was a fire. Another reason was that I'm obstinate, I hate medicine—I was one of those kids that my mom had to literally sit on my chest in order for me to take it. I knew when my anxiety became uncontrollable, and though it hadn't reached the point that I described earlier, I could feel it getting there so I committed myself to my breathing exercises; they took a while but eventually worked. The obstinacy and persistence had seen me through my ailment, and it had kept me off of Lexapro for a while—it also taught me when the meds were necessary, and I learned the hard way to never lie to myself about these things.
My second day there I had my first breakdown. I knew it was going to be a bad morning when I reacted to someone's outburst that led to him becoming highly agitated. It was the manic depressant addict, though I wouldn’t call him an addict to his face as that’s what set him off. He began to scream and swear, banging on the walls and saying how he “wasn’t addicted to any fucking thing.” He was a far cry from the tranquil man I had met just yesterday. The nurses were trying to calm him but their task was a hard one, he was inconsolable. His eyes were wild and he just kept screaming how he wasn’t addicted, he was laughing like a mad man.
I began to immediately feel a Level 10 anxiety attack coming on—the tightening of the throat and stomach, the sheer, unsettled, urgency and terror—I was upset to say the least. I went for the Ativan first—something I never do, this was the sign of my breaking point. The nurse wanted to talk to me and calm me down, she was unaware that I had Ativan in addition to my Lexapro. You see Ativan is in the same family as Xanax, and is classified as highly addictive if you're not careful with the distribution and usage of it—which explains why the nurse was so hesitant about giving me the pill. She took me aside into one of the conference rooms where I told her what brought me here after she asked:
 “What made you feel this hurt?”
“My mom died when I was thirteen you see…and then after that I was molested by my schools bible teacher…I—I just—I’m so damn tired of it all. I feel disgusted and raw, I hate myself, I miss my mom, I know that her being here would make this so much easier. I am just so…tired of everything.”
I did hate myself, I hated that I couldn’t be the person that I wanted to be because of my depression and anxiety. I wanted to be stronger but I wasn’t, I wanted to be more than what I was, which was still that fourteen year old girl who was scared and alone. I had locked her away for so long, trying so hard to be “strong” and “brave” that the shackles that held her finally broke, which lead to my being here in this room with this amazing nurse who doubled as a counselor. She talked with me for an hour, listening and verifying my feelings. I never really had a chance to deal with all that had happened to me, after all it happened so fast: my mother was dead within a month of her diagnosis and not even a year after that I was molested. I suppressed it, not wanting to deal with it—I couldn’t deal with it—after all what does a fourteen year old know? How can someone who isn’t an adult deal with adult things?
After I calmed down a bit she said that I could still have the Ativan if I needed it; I found I didn't need it after all. I retreated to my room to write and read.
Even though I was locked away—the real world was still there, all I could think about was school and the fact that if I missed too many classes my graduation date would be pushed back to December. I tried to put it out of my mind; after all I was here for me. It was just before dinner—I was staring out the window, marveling at the “glorious” view: the graveled rooftop and the piece of sky that the tall buildings allowed me to see; I was watching the sunset—it was almost like I had a front row seat in Monet's studio, watching him paint his latest masterpiece. I know it's cliché but I'm in the mental health unit so I'm allowed to use such clichés.
I began to feel a sense of calm; things were starting to clear up I began to feel like things were starting to make sense. I had made great progress in these two days—I haven’t had one suicidal thought since the first time I was checked in, my desire to live was becoming more and more prevalent as my family came to visit each day. They loved me back to life; I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, they reminded me of how much I had to live for and how great I could be. For the first time since I came here, I felt, on that second day, that I was going to be okay.

Day three: I was discharged at noon. How do I remember that? Well my sister told me it was lunchtime and she wanted to take me to get “real” food. We went to Chipotle. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Living with Depression: One Year Later

It's kind of insane when I think about it. It feels like it's been years since I've been diagnosed.

This whole thing is sometimes one big clusterfuck. I don't know what day it is, nor do I care; I sometimes feel like I'm under this huge cloud of imminent darkness that's never going to lift; I have no motivation to get the things done that need to be done, and I sometimes will sit down and cry for no reason other than I'm just sad and frustrated with my life at the moment. I hate it, and yet I know that I must come to terms with it in order to both maintain my sanity and function in my daily life. Sometimes I think back to before I was diagnosed and naively think "Man my life was so much easier when I didn't have depression."

Then I want to kick myself for being so damn stupid.

I've always had depression, I just never knew what it was. I used to think that depression was easily spotted, that it gave off some sort of symptom like a cold does. I never thought of myself having a mental illness because the term has so much negative connotation attached to it; Saying "Oh you have a mental illness!" makes it sound like you belong in a padded room with a straight jacket or so doped up  that you stare at the wall and occasionally blink. People with mental illnesses are those who are locked away, not me.

I can remember quite vividly what my life was like before I was diagnosed: I was moody, I would have long periods of melancholy, I wouldn't want to get out of bed, I didn't have any motivation, I had these random aches and pains when I would wake up, sleep became a fleeting thing, and I would have horrible nightmares about my molestation and about my mom. I thought I was crazy and I was ashamed. I hid everything from everyone because I thought I could handle it. And for a while I did....just in a terrible way. I drank in excess and began to smoke. I knew what I was doing to my body but I didn't care. I hid everything from everyone because I a.) didn't want to burden anyone or b.) I figured nobody gave a shit. Slowly I began to realize that this was taking a toll on my body, both physically and mentally. I noticed my melancholy was getting worse even with therapy I was getting from my psychologist; I had quit smoking the year before, and I remained dry but my sadness and helplessness was beginning to intensify. I started to have more graphic nightmares, I hated the dark because I thought I could see the face of the man who molested me hiding in the darkness, and my thoughts began to race to the point where I could barely control them. When I started getting suicidal thoughts, when the thoughts became so loud it was almost like someone was screaming at me inside my head, I knew then that I could no longer avoid it: I have severe depression. I need medication. I need help.

I began to take my medicine and seek therapy on a weekly basis. All the while hiding because I was so ashamed of my condition. While the therapy and medication helped immensely, there were still unresolved issues brewing. In September I checked myself into PRMC's Psychiatric Ward after having a panic attack that led to suicidal thoughts; I knew that if I had gone home instead of the hospital, I would have tried to kill myself. I spent three days there, focusing on nothing but why I ended up there in the first place; focusing on my pain, my guilt, and my emptiness. Between the hospital stay and my weekly visits to my therapist I was getting better.

It's been a year since I was diagnosed and almost a year since I was hospitalized. I still seek therapy and I'm still on medication. I know I still have a very long road ahead of me. This is not something that's going to just fix itself overnight and I know that now. I'm very slowly getting better, yes I still have my moments of deep depression but I now know why I have them and how to get out of them. This is a process, a journey; not one that I ever thought I would take but this is the hand I've been dealt and I must deal with it.

I will continue to seek therapy and take this medication. I may be on these meds for a few years or the rest of my life, who knows? All I know is they help. The therapy helps, and I look forward to every appointment because I know that something is brewing; someday I will be okay, someday I'll be the person I want to be. It's hard to remember that sometimes, but somehow I manage to put a pin in it and keep it in the back of my mind. I will learn to live with my depression, and I will be okay.

I will be okay.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What it's like to live with depression

By now most of you know that I have been diagnosed with depression. I am still sort of dealing with the diagnosis myself, I find that I still am somewhat ashamed of my condition; I still look down or stutter a bit when I talk about it, fortunately because I am hiding behind my laptop screen this time I am calm and ready to talk to you about depression.

First of all, I am not sad. I hate it when people make the assumption that just because I have depression I'm sad all the time like Eeyore. I am not a donkey with a pink bow on my ass. I'm depressed not sad, there's a difference believe it or not. Depression is (this is my definition) the inability to do the things that you used to love, you can't seem to wake up, you feel like nothing you do is right, and there's this immense cloud and/or void that feels like it's going to swallow you whole. Yes, sadness does play a part in it but it's a different kind of sadness--the worse kind: the kind that doesn't go away no matter how many funny movies you watch, or how long you hang out with your friends. Your brain is your worse enemy because it can't produce enough happy juice to get you through the day and it constantly reminds you of how much you suck, how awful life is and how nobody cares about you and your pathetic life.

My brain was telling me two different things, see I have this logic thing that was telling me the exact opposite of what my emotions were. It was like Jekyll and Hyde: the light side was telling me that I was loved, I had no reason to want to die, and I needed to talk to someone; the dark side was telling me that I wanted to die, that I had always wanted to die since mom died and I was molested, and I wouldn't be missed.
Scary shit right? See the thing about depression is that there is so much that people don't know, they seem to think that people can help it and when they finally do pull that trigger, pop that last pill, or tighten that noose; they think that they have a choice and they don't. They can't stop it, they are ashamed of themselves. They're terrified that they're going to be seen as weak, over-dramatic, or silly. Its this stigma that people have about depression that makes people more depressed!

Depression is a disease, an illness. It's just as serious as high blood pressure or diabetes. It needs daily medication just like the said conditions. I take two different medications for my condition: Abilify and Lexapro, I also take Ativan for my anxiety when I have one of my paralyzing attacks. These are all medications that I need like a diabetic needs insulin. If I don't take it I am a horrible person to be around, Debbie Downer ain't got nothin' on me. In all seriousness when I don't take my medication I sink back into a deep, dark place; I become moody, lethargic, I can't concentrate, I don't enjoy things that I used to, and probably the most serious condition I have is a condition called "intrusive thoughts." It's a condition in which I cannot control my thoughts, and those thoughts often lead to suicidal ones. I don't want to kill myself but those thoughts become so very, very loud. It's almost like having fifty people shouting different things at you, it's maddening. It's not voices, there's only me in here, but a darker version of me--the me that I can't control without medication. This leads to my anxiety, and it eventually lead to my three day hospitalization. Honestly, it was the best thing I did up until that point.

I'm happy to report that, while I am still adjusting to them, I am on medication that works for me. I hope that in reading this you can get a new idea on depression. That you see it's a disease, not a fleeting illness that can be treated for a week and then expect the patient to be all better. It requires patience and as much understanding as you can muster.

WebMD has great resources for people with depression and those who just want to educate themselves, which is something I would encourage all of my readers to do: Educate themselves. Plus they're a lot more articulate than I am on the matter. I hope that my experience shines some light on the matter and changes what you guys think about depression.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The "Uncomfortable Topic"

It's currently 6 a.m. And I am sitting here at my computer wanting to talk to you about mental illness. I must be mentally ill to want to talk about such an “uncomfortable” topic at this ungodly hour in the morning. However the topic has been weighing heavily on my mind as I fall into the category of “mentally ill.”
     I was recently diagnosed with depression over the summer; it claimed many hours of my life and at times made it impossible for me to get anything done or do anything. Along with the depression came anxiety, I have attacks so severe they render me literally defenseless and unable to do anything. My anxiety led to what doctors call “intrusive thoughts,” a condition where you cannot control what thoughts come into your head and struggle to comprehend or fight them. My depression and anxiety combined led to a very dark and dangerous place that I could not control, nor could I get myself out of; this led to suicidal thoughts and almost to tenancies. I didn't want to kill myself, as a matter of fact I knew how much I had going for me: a wonderful family, awesome friends, and a whole new world of opportunities. The thing is, I got tired. Tired of fighting with myself, tired of these thoughts telling me to do harm to myself, and tired of the nightmares that plagued me each and every night. I struggled for so long and finally I realized that I was becoming a danger to myself; so I checked myself in at the local mental health unit, I knew that if I didn't I would become another statistic.
     I'm happy to report that I am on medication that controls the depression and the anxiety; while I still have anxiety attacks, and they are debilitating, I am in a much better place than I was four months ago. I see a therapist regularly and while I have my days, I truly believe that I won't always be this way.
     So what happened? What made me sink so low? I won't go into details because this essay is not about me, I will say however that repressing things, not talking about what your feeling, and not being given a chance to deal with traumatic events that occur in your life, these issues will arise; the human mind is the most least understood thing in this world, it is a network of abyssal areas that we cannot fathom and it can hold the key to healing or destroying the soul.
     Why am I talking about this now? The recent events at Sandy Hook have made me realize that nobody talks about it. Mental illness is something that is swept under the rug or it's made fun of or people have the audacity to think that the actions of those with a mental illness can be controlled or helped. I'm not here to make a case for the shooter, I dare not touch that, I'm here to make a case for the doctors, parents, and most importantly the patients who often don't have a voice.
     People often think that something like depression can be helped, they say things like “Why are you so sad?” or the ever-annoying “Cheer up! Life's not so bad!” that makes me want to punch them in the neck. I want to shake them and say “I can't cheer up! I'm not sad I'm depressed goddamnit! I can't just tell myself not to be sad, I don't know what the hell I'm feeling or why!” Then I realize that a.) I can't punch them in the neck because that will get me thrown in an can't just go around punching people in the neck no matter how much they deserve it; and b.) I feel this way because society has made not only me, but thousands of others like me and worse than me feel this way.
     When was the last time we heard people raising awareness for Mental Illness like they do cancer or heart disease? How many people can you name that have a condition? Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and hundreds more are just as dangerous as high blood pressure and cancer. They are illnesses they aren't fleeting like a common cold or the flu, they don't come and go like a rash, and they aren't like an allergic reaction. It's a disease. Often a permanent ailment like diabetes that requires daily medication. It is not something that should be taken lightly nor is it something that should be ignored. Aurora, Virginia Tech, and recently Sandy Hook are all examples of what happen when you ignore the weird kid, the sad kid, the quiet kid, and the angry kid.
     Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and therapists are all at the front lines and they're all by themselves. They are responsible for finding the ticking time bombs and trying to help them before it's too late. Even then they're up against drug and insurance companies who are only looking out for the all mighty dollar and not doing a damn thing to make it easier for the families of these patients to get help. I should know, my family and I have been battling with insurance companies for months because the medication I need is over $200 a month. I can't imagine what a person who needs several different medications has to spend in order to survive.
     Yes. Survive. These medicines are just as important to our well-being as insulin is to a diabetic, and high blood pressure pills is to a person with that condition. It infuriates me when I hear people making fun of people with these conditions, who need medication in order to function. Why not make fun of a diabetic? Or a cancer patient? Because it's wrong. The same logic applies to someone with a mental illness, we need this medication to survive. Do not ostracize us because we're easy targets and you don't understand. That's why people go and off themselves in a dark room, or worse they go and kill others before they turn their weapon on themselves.
     Twenty children, little babies, died on Friday. A sick, disturbed man took their lives after he took the life of his own mother and then took his own life; he was a ticking time bomb that again, slipped through the crack. Instead of running your mouth about how sick he was or how cowardly why not sit your ass down at a computer or get a medical journal and educate yourself? Why not push for more education on mental illness? We don't need more gun control laws, that's a scapegoat in order to avoid the “uncomfortable” issue of mental illness.
     My heart aches for that community, I can't tell you how much I feel for them. I hurt, I cried for those children and teachers. I can't help but think if people were more comfortable with this topic that this could have been prevented. Someone would've noticed that this young man needed immediate admittance to an institution because he was a danger to himself and others; he may never have gotten out, but he would've received help, medication, and people would have been safe. If there wasn't so much bullshit to go through with insurance companies, if the drugs weren't ridiculously expensive and if people knew more about this...maybe, just maybe this could have been avoided. But what do I know?
     I don't know why I wrote this, perhaps I'm tired of being ashamed of my own condition, maybe I think it'll do some good, hell maybe I'm just shooting my mouth off. I want to believe that someone will read this and perhaps be touched, that they will realize that this is a serious disease like diabetes, that can eventually claim the life of it's victim if it's not discovered and if society does not change it's views. How many people like this kid are out there? How many more ticking time bombs have to explode before we get it? How many more violent shootings do we have to endure before we realize that guns are not the problem? We must have more research into the topic of Mental Illness. I don't want to have to wake up to another Sandy Hook, or read a newspaper where a mother found her child hanging in their closet. I want to read a headline like this: CONGRESS APPROVES FUNDS FOR MORE RESEARCH ON MENTAL ILLNESS.
     Reader I am only a college student, I don't pretend to be wise to the ways of the world or have all the answers. I know that there are perfectly normal people who are just evil and will do evil deeds in order to get what they want. They also ruin it for those who have a condition by throwing the “I couldn't help it because of my mental condition” card.
     I do know this: get enough people riled up and change happens. So now that you've read this, I've got to ask you: What are you going to do with what you have just read?