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?
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:
- Uncontrollable Negative Thoughts
- 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.