Mental illness is not fun. I know this for a fact, because I suffer from it. I suffer from depression.
Depression and I go way back. I’m not sure exactly when it first became apparent to me, but looking back, I recall being held in its bony clutches when I was in my early 20s. For many years I don’t think I was really aware that this is what I was dealing with, but then I read an article that had a list of 10 indicators that a person might be suffering with depression, out of which I had 9.
For many years, I was ashamed to admit I suffered with depression. I don’t even think my family was aware I was dealing with it. There has been such a stigma in the past regarding depression and all mental illnesses really. I was afraid of what my family and friends would think about me if they knew. I remember once joking with my mom that I should go see a psychiatrist or something, and she got a little upset and said that I shouldn’t, because they would only blame her and dad (it seemed at the time that blaming the parents for their kids’ issues was the “in” thing to do – you have a hard time dealing with an issue, it must be because your parents abused you in some way!). I felt hopeless; I felt alone and like I had no one to turn to, because I didn’t want them blaming my parents. My depression had nothing to do with them or how they raised me. In fact, they did a pretty darn good job at raising me and my two brothers! I felt like nobody else I knew would understand or imagine just how terrible I felt. In fact, I’m pretty sure I thought that nobody else I knew could ever be dealing with something like this!
During my late 20s, after realising I was battling depression, I went to my doctor and was prescribed an anti-depressant. I took it for about a year, and because I didn’t have any benefits at work, I couldn’t afford to pay for the medication. I stopped taking it and I felt that I was doing alright, but naturally, it came back. For many years after, I continued to suffer this spiral effect of being OK and then not being OK, because of not having a drug plan and not being able to afford the medication, and also because I was ashamed to ask anyone to help me with it.
Fast forward to a few years ago. I got to a point in my life where my depression was hitting me big time – when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After talking to my fiancé (who is now my husband), we decided I needed to go on antidepressants again. I began taking them, and of course, they worked. Until I stopped taking them.
In my thinking, I tried to reason that I couldn’t afford this medication because of not working or not having a drug plan. Every time I stop, I do OK for a while (sometimes it can be a long while) but I always end up at a point where it’s not OK anymore and I need to go back on the meds. As I said, it’s a spiral effect. Just recently I started taking my anti-depressant again and I’m waiting for it to kick in (it takes awhile). My husband and I have decided that this is something that we need to prioritize because my mental health is worth it.
I am learning that I need to be on medication for my depression because nothing else works. Depression is not something that you can “snap out of.” Depression is not “the blues.” Depression is a legitimate illness. And while in recent years awareness of mental illness and the stigmas associated with it has been quite predominate in the news, it’s still not completely accepted. We still have a long way to go.
Do I still have fears that people will judge me or think I’m making this up or blame someone or something for causing me to be this way? Yes, I do. But I am also learning that having a mental illness is OK. It doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me weird. It doesn’t make me any less of a person. Society still has a long way to go with regards to accepting mental illness and those who have it, but we can get there.
I would like to end by asking that if you don’t know a lot about mental illness, please do some research. Don’t judge people who suffer with it, don’t tell them to “just get over it” or “snap out of it.” It doesn’t work that way. I ask that you be more accepting, that you understand that mental illness is legitimate and so many suffer from it – often in silence. I ask that you be caring. Be kind. Be a friend. Be a support. Be understanding when I just don’t feel like getting out of bed or when I all I feel like doing is crying – even when I don’t know why. Be there. That’s all I ask.