Breaking the Gag Order on Mental Health

I have decided to break the gag order, the one that I believe keeps society from discussing mental illness. I am no longer going to lower my voice to a whisper when it comes to discussing mental illness, instead I am going to say it out loud and proud. Since I am saying this out loud for all to hear, let me be specific, I have major depressive disorder, reoccurring, also known as clinical depression, along with generalized anxiety disorder (these two are often companions).

A Little Bit of Background…

I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2009 and after about 6 months of trial and error, I found a medication that treated my symptoms.  This medication worked well until this past fall and over the past couple months, my symptoms had become so crippling that I found that I could not be effective at my job. Finally, the only thing I could do was take a step back to focus on taking care of myself.

When I called in sick to work, there were many opportunities presented to answer the seemingly simple question, “what is wrong?” from the people around me.  As I responded with the explanation that I have depression, I watched (or heard) their confusion and discomfort.  I don’t fit their expectation for what depression looks and acts like.

Do I look like someone who is depressed? 

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Most people who suffer from depression develop coping mechanisms so they can continue to function despite their symptoms. This is our way of fighting back. We fight with all we have so the depression doesn’t steal every moment of our lives.  We fake it until we make it. While there is a smile across my face in this photo, I felt completely worthless inside and I was barely hanging on to keep my head above water, when this was taken.

I can understand why people are confused when I tell them that I am depressed, how is anyone supposed to know what depression looks like when no one will discuss it. While I have grown more and more comfortable discussing my depression with my close family and friends, but very few of those closest to me understand what it really means.  It doesn’t mean I am just “feeling sad” or that it is a result of a situation that I am going through. My depression is clinical, it is a result of a chemical imbalance in my brain and when the chemicals are off balance, my life is thrown out of balance. When someone with asthma can’t breathe, they need to use their inhaler and when I am depressed, I need help balancing the chemicals in my brain to treat the symptoms.

Symptoms of depression vary for everyone. It is common to think that depression just means that someone is sad, withdrawn, and going through a rough time, but they can snap out of it if they tried.  I can’t speak for what others experience, but the cocktail of symptoms that I experience with depression are:

  • Irritability
  • Uncontrollable Negative Thoughts
  • Exhaustion
  • General Feelings of Worthlessness
  • Lack of Interest to Engage in Social Activities
  • Increased Anxiety
  • Feelings that there is no solution or resolution to these feelings
  • Desire to Give Up

Many of these symptoms can be invisible, which can make suffering from them even harder.

Something to Talk About 

Statistics show that 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression, so why aren’t we running 5Ks for depression? Our health is a private and personal matter, but without bringing attention and (and more importantly private funding) to an issue, how can we expect a change?

So let’s start talking.  I am making a vow to break the gag order and discuss mental health openly and honestly. I will raise awareness with my voice in person and here, on this blog. I ask that you consider taking the same vow. You may be surprised about what you learn once you start.

 

 

 

7 Comments on Breaking the Gag Order on Mental Health

  1. Kerry
    July 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm (3 years ago)

    Bri, this is SO brave of you! This is such an important issue in our society that needs people like you to speak up and educate others. But more importantly, I think writing about this and feeling like you can be open will help you heal. I hope you feel the same peace I have felt by letting the world know about what is plaguing me.

    Reply
  2. Court
    July 17, 2014 at 5:50 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you for speaking out and sharing! Many if us out there also suffer from mental illness. You are not alone, society has made it shameful, but it is nothing to be ashamed about!

    Reply
  3. Ashley
    July 17, 2014 at 6:33 pm (3 years ago)

    Bri, Thank you so much for sharing this. I have watched family members on both my mother and father’s side struggle with depression, one culminating in suicide. As someone who has had anxiety since 2001, I learned a long time ago how to push down the struggle I felt inside but put on a happy face for the world. About a year and a half ago I realized the way I was feeling was not just anxiety, but something more. It was hard for me to express this, even to my closest family members, but finally I realized it was nothing to be ashamed about. I saw doctors, made changes to my life, and am so happy for the way things have turned around. This is not to say I have been “cured”. Some days are such a struggle and it’s so hard to smile or to even get out of bed and focus at work, but I am so happy to have found the strength to open up and to not be ashamed for it has given me a better support system which as made all the difference. The looks people give when they find out about depression are comical at times, as some think being in a bad mood or having a bad day is the same thing, when some days all I want is to be happy, but can’t. Reading this reminds me I am not alone out there and there are people who know the feelings and trials of living each day while dealing with mental health issues.

    Reply
  4. Sara Ryan
    July 17, 2014 at 7:39 pm (3 years ago)

    Great post Bri! Well written and I can certainly relate. Sad while smiley? I have suffered from this as well. Miss ya

    Reply
  5. Peter Dehlinger
    July 21, 2014 at 2:13 am (3 years ago)

    Bri I read your post and have to say I am filled with emotions. Pride in my daughter that had the strength to break her silence on the struggle she faces everyday to find the daily mental health and happiness so many of us take for granted. Sadness and ache in my heart that my daughter with all her talent, creativity, and passion for life has to face each day behind a mask that hides the pain of depression. Frustration that there is so little a father can do to help her with this battle against this chemical monster to find balance and peace with herself. Finally there is the hope that she is on the path to better days for herself, and all her family and friends that once again get to enjoy the spark Bri brings!
    Love you
    Dad

    Reply
  6. Kevin McKearn
    July 23, 2014 at 12:27 am (3 years ago)

    Bri,

    I only have one word to say: AMAZING!

    I think that you’re incredible openness and honesty is refreshing and awesome!!

    You are not alone in the wilderness………..Depression affects many people and it is as debilitating as a physical disorder; maybe more so as it is so frustrating.

    I commend you for your candor and your inner strength. There is no question in my mind that you will come out better and even stronger than before. God Speed!!!

    Kevin

    Reply
  7. Mary Montileone
    July 31, 2014 at 12:59 am (3 years ago)

    Bri

    I am happy you have broken your silence. You are doing the best thing for YOU! I too suffer from depression /anxiety disorder. At first I was not sure what was going on with me, but soon found out why and what my options were. I have been taking Lexapro for at least 15 years now and back then when I started my medication everything was hush hush, because I thought no one would understand. I don’t know where I would be today if I wouldn’t have listened to a Neurologist who recomended an antidepressent for me. I now talk freely about mental illness, anxienty and chemical imbalance. I am so happy I started my medication and have no reason to ever stop taking it. The quality of my life and focus could not be better. There are so many others out there including my own friends and family that are in denial or don’t believe medication can balance the chemicals in your brain and improve the quality of you life. Good Luck on your journey to find the right balance!

    Reply

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