I am tired of pretending. I am tired of trying to fit in a world that does not accept me. I am tired of lying by omission, of fearing that my employers will find out, of feeling isolated and misunderstood over something I have no control over. I am disgusted by mass ignorance, horrendous stigmas, lack of access to treatment and medications, and outrageous costs if one does have proper access. I am on a journey to break the silence, promote education and awareness, fight stigma, and cultivate a compassionate community.
Loved ones warned me against writing about it. “What if your current or a prospective employer finds your blog and reads it?!” I promptly posted my response on my blog and directed those concerned to read it. It stated, in part, “If a possible employer chooses not to hire me based on my personal thoughts and feelings, which I express in my personal time, I don’t want to work for that person or company. Maybe that is foolish, but that’s my choice.” I dug my heels in and refused to be silent in that moment.
I live with Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, to put it simply, I have a broken brain. Symptoms began when I was a very small child though I was not diagnosed until I was in high school. I’ve had three major depressive episodes, each lasting years. I reached partial remission once and it lasted for almost three years. I have been in Intensive Outpatient Treatment twice, I voluntarily checked into a psychiatric unit for four days once, and I have been through 25 treatments of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). I have been on nearly every anti-depressant medication on the market at one time or another, as well as anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and a litany of other psychotropic medications. I haven’t bothered keeping count of how many different psychiatrists and therapists I’ve seen between the three states I’ve lived in.
Depression has transformed, directed, and damaged my life on several different levels. A lifelong war between mind, body, heart, and soul. Emotional agony transcends into the physical. Brain saying, “You have never been enough, you’ve failed at everything you’ve done, you’ve failed everyone you love, you are a burden, you have no future, there is no point to your existence.” Body shaking, muscles tense, tears streaming, heart pounding, breathing labored. Depression itself and side effects from medications, as well as the stress associated with the illness, impinge upon ability to focus, learn, and retain information. I have been unable to hold down the same job for long. When I am in the midst of a particularly brutal battle I can’t get out of bed, I can’t make the tears stop no matter what, I can’t leave the house, I just can’t. There are only so many valid reasons to call out from work before you are simply unreliable. There is no such thing as calling out from work because you are depressed. Therefore, I have no career to speak of despite a very expensive piece of paper stating I am a college graduate.
Friends and family don’t understand, even the ones who try. Most act as though it could be contagious. Often they either relate your illness with their last break-up or look at you with discomfort in their eyes not knowing what to say. Others are suddenly psychiatrists and know exactly how to cure you, best intentions of course. In my experience, the more honest I am with people about my thoughts and feelings when I am lost in the darkness of my depression the less I hear from them, no matter how long they’ve known me. There are a few exceptions, of course.
After that first moment of breaking my silence, or, at least, standing up for the breaking of my silence, I have been foolishly content with writing on my little blog. Pouring my pain into each word, reaching out to the world between the wires, searching and hoping to find my voice and the right audience. I had a conversation with a friend the other day that inspired me to take another step in the journey. This friend has stood by and encouraged me for over fifteen years, witnessing the agonizing ups and downs without turning her back on me. I was telling her that my depression has been bad and she asked me if I had given any thought to her suggestion of believing in a higher power. Upon telling her I simply do not believe she said, “It’s hard for me to respond to your comments like that. Because the truth for me is different than what your truth is. It’s unfortunate that your mind can’t open to the things I see. I wish it could. I believe your life would be a lot different. But until you can open yourself to the possibility of other realities than the one you’ve been living with, you’ll never get out of it.” I promptly responded, “Are you saying you believe that if I don’t find faith in a higher power that I will never get better?” To which she replied, “You live in darkness, the Creator is the Light.” I have always respected her religious beliefs and she’s always known I am not a believer. I also believe that her intentions were good, she hates seeing me suffer and believes in her faith. However, what she said was at best insensitive and at worst offensive.
The conversation with my friend made me want to build a resource to promote education, awareness, fight stigma, and cultivate a compassionate community regarding depression and mental health. I had recently watched a few TED talks about depression, and I began building Depression: Catalyst for Change. DCfC features a number of TED talks regarding the brain, depression, and mental health. It also features links to definitions, articles and blog posts with relevant content. I encourage readers to contact me if you have or know of articles, videos, blog posts, etc. that would fit the mission of this page OR if you would like to share your own story. I want to encourage the breaking of silence, the smashing of stigmas, and foster building blocks of understanding. I hope you will find Depression: Catalyst for Change a valuable resource, and if you do I hope you will spread the word.