I've been asking myself this question. Why would I want to write about my personal experiences with depression and anxiety and then put it out there for anyone to see? It scares the hell out of me to be honest. And yet, it just feels like the next logical step at this point in life..
I have dealt with depression and anxiety for nearly as long as I can remember. For years I would not fully acknowledge that simple fact. I was on and off medication, I went to therapy, and yet I still didn't really consider myself as someone who had depression and anxiety until fairly recently. I never attempted suicide. I have never been hospitalized. This line of thinking was a way to separate myself from people who were really messed up. I just wasn't ready to accept it, or maybe I just couldn't see it clearly. I would go off my medication once I started to feel better with the assumption that everything was better now and I didn't need the medication anymore. I wanted to be "normal". Who doesn't?
About three years ago I had one of my worst episodes of depression that once again pushed me back onto medication and into therapy. It was different this time. I had always managed to push my way through my episodes before. I mean I was miserable, but I still managed to function. I did get through this episode, but I felt more out of control than I had ever felt before. It scared me. A LOT!!! I didn't feel safe. I thought I would have to be hospitalized. I would make it through work somehow (those close to me noticed something wasn't right) and then just come home and cry. I would often cry in the car on my way to and from work. After a while, maybe 2 months, the medication started to kick in and slowly I began to stabilize...
I started taking it a bit more seriously. Instead of just letting my general doctor take care of prescribing me medication I asked for a referral to a psychiatrist. He questioned me for about an hour about my history and then told me I have episodic major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I hadn't noticed it really before he pointed it out, but over the years my episodes would come more quickly each time after going off of meds and the severity of the episodes began increasing. I made a choice at that point that my goal was no longer to go off of medication. I'm still on it 3 years later and am not sure I'll ever go off. I'm open, but at this point I see no reason to.
Now comes the part that begins to explain why I am writing. As I was coming out of my depression and working on some things in therapy it became clear to me how difficult it was for me emotionally to keep my depression from people. It takes soooooo much energy to pretend like everything is okay when I'm falling apart inside. Not only that, but it was like I was living a lie. Because... I was. I didn't want to do it anymore. So I started telling people. Not random strangers on the street or anything, but people who were close to me. My wife already knew, but my parents did not. Many of my friends didn't know either. So when the opportunity arose, I started telling people. I told my parents, my brother and his wife, many of my co-workers, and a lot of friends. I also had a conversation with each of my sons about it, who were then 9 and 12. The conversations were really good and each of them asked me questions and tried to understand. They were a little concerned and didn't understand, but they each seemed glad that I told them about it.
Through that process an amazing thing happened. Pretty much everyone I told responded sympathetically. Some would tell me about their struggles, or those of a family member or close friend. I realized in those instances that my talking about it gave them permission to share their own experiences. Obviously many people don't understand it entirely and didn't necessarily know how to respond. But that's not the important part. The important part was the weight that was lifted off of my shoulders. I didn't have to pretend anymore. Even though not everyone knew, there were multiple people in all parts of my life who knew about it. I still had the same issues, except now I didn't feel so alone with them or like I had to work so hard to put up a false front.
A lot has happened in the last several years, but I'll save that for next time. At this point in my life I feel very strongly about the fact that a mental illness is just like any other illness and there should be no shame or stigma attached to it. I still struggle at times and I've been in therapy with the same therapist for just over a year now. I have a long ways to go, but I'm getting there.
I've learned over the last several years how common suicide is, and how it would be so much easier to prevent if people were able to get help and not feel the stigma attached to their illness. I want mental illness to be seen in the same light as diabetes or any other illness. I want people to be able to talk about it. So part of my process in trying to bring this about is to live in the light with my illness. I know it will be helpful to me to share my struggles, my successes, my fears, and my hopes. I am also hopeful that my writing will give others hope and let them know they are not alone.