Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why should I even have to defend myself???

Okay, now hopefully this won't seem like I am going completely on the attack here. That is really not my goal. My goal is to educate and offer insight into my life, and into what it is really like dealing with a mental illness.

I can't honestly tell you when I first started dealing with depression and anxiety. I can tell you I remember getting anxious and crying over something little in 4th grade, and thinking, "What is wrong with me? Why can't I stop crying? Why is nobody else in my class this emotional?" So I can tell you, I knew something was "different" about me as early as 4th grade. Probably even earlier.

The problem I deal with, is those people who doubt the severity of mental illness, think I am making mountains out of molehills, or believe it is something I can overcome without taking medication. It is none of those things, I assure you! I have heard every "theory" in the book, I have tried every "method" there is to "cure" this, and let me tell you, nothing aside from a proper diagnosis and medication has worked for me.

People seem to think I just up and decided to take meds as a "quick fix." I didn't. Like I said, this is something I have been battling since I was a young child. Like many other things, it is a progressive illness, so it only got worse as time went on. Like I said above, I spent years and years trying everything in the book trying to find something to "cure" me. I tried dance therapy, group counseling, strict diet changes, vitamin supplements, exercise, prayer (LOTS of it!!), yoga, talking it out with friends and family.... Still, the problem persisted, and got even worse.

It got to the point that in October '06, I had a full-on emotional breakdown. I thought I was insane. I wanted to die, and probably would have taken my life, if it didn't mean leaving my kids in anguish without a mother. I wanted to run away from everyone and everything because I couldn't handle anything. There were days when I would lock myself in the bathroom, away from the kids, and call my husband in hysterics, begging him to come home because I couldn't be a mother. I drove myself to the ER twice, but out of pride, both times I never made it past the parking lot. One time, I sat in the parking lot digging my car key into the palm of my hand, til the point that I bled. Everything in my life was falling apart. My marraige was a mess. My kids were becoming unruly. I was losing friends left and right. My business, that I built from the ground up by myself, completely ran aground because I didn't have the energy to work on it. I didn't like myself and what I had become. I wasn't merely unhappy - I was severely depressed! It had nothing to do with my circumstances - my life was good. It wasn't just a "funk" that I could "shake off." I was really, really sick inside!!

We, as a society, say that we are tolerant and understanding of mental illness. Yet the ignorances and well-intentioned but hurtful statements remain. Sure, everyone deals with their own problems in their own way, but until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes, you have absolutely no right to call anyone else's choices into question.

Would I honestly CHOOSE to have this struggle be a part of my everyday life? Would you??? To those who think depressed people are just looking for attention or like to wallow in self-pity, let me tell you something, nobody LIKES living this way!!! To those who think that this is just a matter of prayer and "right thinking," let me tell you, I have prayed and prayed and PRAYED about this, felt guilty about it, questioned my walk with God... I spent YEARS taking your ignorant advice and continuing to suffer! Shame on you for making me spend years thinking I was less of a Christian and less of a human being!!!! Ultimately, it comes down to this: Would God honestly want me to live in agony, about to give up on my kids, my marriage...my entire LIFE?!?! Of course He wouldn't!! God gave us doctors and medications for a reason!! (One of the 12 disciples, and author of the book of Luke, was a doctor! And Jesus himself instructed Paul to drink wine - their "medicine" back then - to cure a stomach ailment. I hardly think Jesus is against doctors or conventional medicine!)

Let's look at it a different way. Rather than looking at this as a weakness of character, let's look at for what it TRULY is - a medical condition.

I found a GREAT article once (can't find it now....it was years ago...) that stated that depression is "diabetes of the brain." In the pancreas, if the levels of nutrients and hormones produced are out of whack, the person suffers from diabetes. This same occurance in the brain, shows up as depression. A sluggish input and output of the correct hormones and nutrients between cells causes diabetes if it presents in the pancreas, and depression if it presents in the brain. So essentially, it is the SAME EXACT THING!!! Yet, nobody questions those who take medication for diabetes. If depression is basically the same exact thing, then why do those taking medication for depression catch so much flack?!?

Also, you could comapre it to cancer. Mental illnesses are PROGRESSIVE. If left alone, they will become more severe. You wouldn't just ignore cancer, hoping that with a "right mind," prayer, diet changes, exercise changes, and other "therapies" it will cure itself, right? No. That would be completely stupid! So why do we talk ourselves out of, or allow ourselves to be bullied or guilted out of, seeking help and treatment for a likewise progressive disease that can, and tragically too often does, also result in death, but with the right treatment, can put someone in "remission?"

I guess my point is, it gets really tiresome having to defend myself to others. I don't get hurt or swayed by others' comments or opinions anymore, but it does still irritate me. If I could just decide not to suffer from a mental illness anymore, I would have decided that 20 years ago! If I could have cured it with prayer and a "right mind" alone, then it should have worked. If it was just an issue of diet, vitamins, and exercise, then that should have worked too. But at the end of the day, I KNOW I did what was right for ME. It may not be right for everyone, but it was right for ME.

I am done being hurt, bullied, guilted, and convinced I am a weak individual and a faithless Christian. I KNOW none of that is true! I owe my very LIFE to a correct diagnosis, a medication that works, and a strong support system! The right treatment - which DOES include medication! - saved my marriage, my relationships with my kids, gave me the opportunity to have a 3rd child, gave me joy and peace in my life, and made me feel for the first time in my life like a "normal" person. I can function, I can handle what life throws at me. Before the correct treatment, I didn't know what that even looked like! I lived a life of unhealthiness and unhappiness, and now that I know what true mental health and happiness look like, I am NEVER going back to a life battling depression on my own terms. I can't. I'm not willing to risk everything that is good to appease others.

Please, those of you who *think* you know everything about depression, don't make ignorant, guilt-driven, false statements that keep others from seeking help. It doesn't help, and only makes a depressed person feel even more worthless. If you are a Christian, please, drop the notion that this is purely a spiritual issue, because its not, and quit making others question where they stand with Christ based on false information. Get the facts. Listen to those of us who have lived with it and actually LEARN something before you draw assumptions.

For those who do suffer from chronic depression, know you aren't alone, and know you don't have to continue to suffer. You are not weak, you are not crazy. You are sick, and like most medical conditions, its not going to go away on its own, and will only continue to get worse the more you ignore it. Fight for your life!! Get help. Talk to your doctor, a therapist... If you have to go on medication, so be it. You are worth it!! LIFE is worth it!! :)

1 comment:

JuliaHefner said...

Well done Megan! There is such a stigma surrounding mental illness, and what's worse is that like you said, many don't think that depression or anxiety falls in that category. Rather they lump it in with emotions that you can control, however it is clear that these are not mere emotions but true and diagnosable conditions that require help. I'm so happy for you that you have found a treatment that works for you, and that you have the strength to write something like this!!! :D