The Dark Side of My Brain
Answers to (Stupid) Questions About Mental Illness
I'm 26 and I've been dealing with depression, anxiety, and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) for 20 years. Wrap your head around that for a second. I've been told a million times, "Oh honey you're young, you'll grow out of it," or "Please, you are entirely top young to have that many problems already." Well let me tell you something. Yes I am young, but I'm a 20 year vet of multiple invisible illnesses. Please don't tell me I'm too young for life to be rough. Please don't sit there and undermine my mental illnesses just because you want to be small minded about it.
You have a happy life, how can you be depressed?
Let me tell you how; my brain doesn't make enough serotonin for my sad little body to be happy. Yes I realize I have a good life currently. I am happily married to a awesomely dorky man who loves me and my sadness. I have two fat kitties who love me and food. I have clothes on my back and a roof over my head. Yes, to you, I have nothing to be depressed about, but let me say it really loudly so you don't miss it the first time. I AM ALLOWED TO BE DEPRESSED ABOUT NOTHING. All too often people judge and dismiss depression and other mental illnesses; they believe that these are used for attention and other things. Let me be the first to say that during a public meltdown that last thing I want is attention. I don't want other people staring at me, judging me in silence while whispering behind their hands. It's humiliating and degrading.
Well, can't you just get over it?
No, I can't. Asking somebody to get over a depressive episode is like asking a cancer patient to get over being sick from chemo. It doesn't go away just because you want it to. Once it starts it's like sinking in quick sand. You can feel yourself being pulled down. You can physically feel a depressive, anxiety, manic, etc. episode start. What a lot of people don't understand is that a mental illness affects more than just your mental state, more than just your brain.
How can a mental illness affect you physically?
The best way I make sense of it in my head (there is probably some big scientific thing to it but I'm not a Dr.) is that, this is a mental illness, it affects your brain. Your brain runs everything else in your body. So logically speaking if your brain is sick then the rest of your body may be sick too. During depression episodes I've been known to lose weight, gain weight, lose sleep, sleep way too much, lose my hair, lose my appetite, and over eat. There are so many ways that mental illness can become physical illnesses. Everyone is affected differently.
Living with a Mental Illness
As I have previously said, I've lived with mental illness all my life. I grew up in a household where mental illness ran rampant. I watched it affect parenting, a marriage, and parent/child relationships. Coping openly wasn't quite a thing when I was younger. So I, and probably a lot of other people, bottled it all up and didn't cope. I learned horribly unhealthy coping methods just like so many others out in this world. Obviously I'm older now. I know healthy coping methods and I know what to watch for when I feel a episode coming on. Thats not to say that I don't struggle with it daily. I do. Every morning when I wake up, it's there and in my face. When I'm laughing and having a good time with my husband it's there in the back of my head saying, "It's a mistake, why does he love you," "There is nothing to love." Everything I do is peppered with the little depression monster. Everything I enjoy eventually changes or doesn't thrill me anymore; and I'm just left there to watch a beloved hobby become something that fills me with dread. Not everyday is bad though. Some days I am all smiles and I have the strength to live with my head up and my smile bright. My days are filled with random emotion that doesn't go away and that is ever changing. I cannot control it. I cannot change it. I will not let it run my life and ruin my sanity.