Depression Without Shame
Personal Acceptance Of My Depression
There is a stigma about depression and other mental illnesses. You think there is something wrong with you or that you're damaged. You think you may be going crazy and that it is better to hide it and keep it bottled up. If no one knows, if it doesn't come out and you can hide it well, then it doesn't exist. Right?
Wrong. Hiding makes it worse. We as a society think that there is something wrong if you feel depression, anxiety, and so many more other mental issues, especially if you feel them at a young age. Mental health does not have a minimum age requirement and it certainly doesn't care about it. Now I can only speak on a few mental illnesses myself for I have personally experienced them and I do not wish to make others believe that I know what I am talking about when I don't.
The main one I will be focusing on is my depression. I had a bit of a battle with this one for I knew what I felt, I just didn't realize that it would stick with me for a lifetime. My depression started at the age of 16. 16? Really? Are you sure? Maybe you were just sad.
That's what some have said to me, but, no, I knew I was depressed. At the young age of 16 I had already lost both of my grandparents on my father's side within 4 years of each other, a life-saving operation at 4 weeks old, a skull fracture, lived through 9/11, impeachments, a couple of car accidents, the death of my first pet, rape, many more things I probably shouldn't have experienced that I cannot remember at this time, and was now in the midst of bomb threats going on at my high school in the suburbs, all because we beat a school in the city of Philadelphia in soccer. That's right: someone was so pissed that my high school soccer team won that they threatened to blow up my school and everyone inside. But that wasn't how I knew I was depressed.
I knew I was sad because I missed my grandparents terribly. I missed my cat terribly. Most importantly of all, I felt alone. High school was one of the worst four years of my life as I started to realize who my true friends were and started to accept myself for who I am. Well, unfortunately, most of my friends had abandoned me, started making fun of me, or just not defended from to the bullies around. I hid behind a smile and tried my best to fit in, to force myself back into the social circle I thought I belonged in, but deep down I think a part of me knew it wasn't working.
I knew it wasn't working because, for several months, I would imagine myself taking all my necklaces and using the chains to create a noose and hanging myself over my ceiling fan. Pretty dark right? And vivid. I let it go on for a long time before I finally said, 'Enough!'. I told my mother how I was feeling and she started taking me to a therapist who I would see once a week for the next two years and would put me on several different medications.
The first was Lexapro. I will never forget this one because I believe I wasn't even on this drug for a month before I started breaking out into hives. I was then placed on Zoloft. I was on that drug for a little less than two years. I laugh about it today because when increasing my Zoloft returned me to my suicidal thoughts, but the dosage I was on no longer helped. My doctor prescribed Abilify to assist the Zoloft. And, yes, I said laugh because the class action suit about the gambling problem seems so ridiculous to me, though I should add, that I don't know what those people were going through or how they feel about it now or felt about it then.
In the end, the last drug I took was Effexor. I have never been on a medication that helped me nearly as much as this one. But at the same time, when I was taking this drug, I was 18. I was about to graduate high school and go to college in a completely different state where I felt I would be getting a new start and a new life. I didn't want to be on an anti-depressant anymore. I wanted to feel free. So I begged my doctor to take me off the medication, saying that fresh start would be good for me. I believe he was reluctant to let me go but he agreed in the end.
And, for a while, all was good. However, two experiences in my college career made me accept that there are things beyond my control and that I had to accept myself for who I was, the good and the bad.
The first one was being cyber-bullied. I was cyber-bullied on an anonymous forum by people who I thought were my friends. "It was anonymous. How do you know who was bullying you?" I read the posts. One of the people commenting was my ex-boyfriend who said my dumping him was the best thing that ever happened to him. What he failed to mention is that he spent the last 2 months of our relationship trying to pressure me into sex, knowing I wasn't ready for it. My personal pages for Facebook and MySpace were posted, as was my cell phone number and I had personal pictures posted that people photo-shopped inappropriately.
Depression and anxiety returned with a vengeance. I felt ruined, destroyed, alone.
The second experience happened a year and a half later in which a friend and myself were both hit by a car in a marked crosswalk. We both survived, but, for me, it was my breaking point. I didn't realize it until a day or so later. I realized that depression and anxiety, which often go hand in hand, were a part of who I am. A permanent part of my life that I would never be rid of. I had to learn to accept that I would be on medication for the rest of my life to control it and a part of me felt shame for it.
I knew no one else outside my family that had to be on drugs for mental health. I was 21 years old and felt I was far too young to be on medication for the rest of my life. And yet 6 years later, I am still on my medication. I went back on Effexor and in the past seven years I have only had to increase my dosage once and that is something that happened maybe 6 months ago. I am a happier person and even when I get into my moods, I am able to express how I feel and, if need be, ask for help.
I know there are so many people, young and old, who are afraid to ask for help. Who believe that depression and anxiety and other mental illness are for the weak. Normal people don't have mental health issues right? Whoever said that couldn't be more wrong! We all have problems, we all need help. The earlier it is caught the easier it is to fight it.
Now that isn't to say that those who don't fight are scared or weak. The problem with mental health is that the only control someone has is how they handle it. I don't want anyone to think that someone who does commit suicide is selfish or weak for they do it because they felt so alone, so sad, so hurt, that they thought the only thing they had left was control over their life. I did the opposite. I took control by saying, "I need help," and I wouldn't stop until someone listened to me.
We may not all be so brave, we may not all have that strength, but even if the only person you can admit to that something is wrong is to yourself, then at least you have someone and you can start from there.