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?