I have had depression and anxiety since my adolescence. I battled with an eating disorder as a young adult. Endured infertility for 4 years before finally having a son, and lost him 5 weeks later. I'm 6 months postpartum and my mental health is far from stable. At this point, I don't even know what is my normal, what is grief or what is postpartum depression. It's probably all of the above! All I know is that it is awful.
And before all you naysayers start listing off how you think I can turn my frown upside down -let me fill you in. I work out 60-90 minutes 4 to 5 days a week. I eat healthy, most of the time (Hey there, National Donut Day). I say my prayers and I read my scriptures. And guess what? I still have a rough time pulling myself out of the abyss to get out of bed every morning. Some days I can do it. Some days I can summon the strength to get up early and get my crap done. But some days, too many days, I don't get out of bed until afternoon because I just cannot fake it anymore.
And ya know why? It is because I have a disease. A mental disease. And it is just as real as if I had a physical one. I am sick of people thinking that depression is just "feeling sad." Believe me, there is a big difference between feeling sad for a day or two and feeling so hopeless you don't know how to keep living every single day. And, no, anxiety isn't just worrying about random things. No, anxiety is suddenly being overcome by irrational, heart-stopping panic in the middle of the grocery store, having to leave your cart and run home to take a Xanax and crawl in bed.
This is a disease. I can't exercise my way out of it. I can't pray my way out of it. Do those things help? Of course! My physical and spiritual health are both major parts of my personal treatment. But those alone cannot fix it. I have to see doctors and take medicine, which means a lot of trial and error to find the right medicine. And I'll probably always need medication because there is NO cure for my disease. No one bats an eye at someone who needs to see a doctor or take medicine for physical ailments. But when it comes to mental illness, the general population suddenly thinks you need to buck up and "just be happy." Trust me, if I could "just be happy" I would!
If you haven't seen it, yet, go read Kristen Bell's essay on her struggle with depression. She's so awesome. I love her! Anyway, she wrote this powerful article about her personal experience and opened up conversation about mental illness all over the internet. She said,
"Mental health check-ins should be as routine as going to the doctor or the dentist. After all, I’ll see the doctor if I have the sniffles. If you tell a friend that you are sick, his first response is likely, 'You should get that checked out by a doctor.' Yet if you tell a friend you’re feeling depressed, he will be scared or reluctant to give you that same advice. You know what? I’m over it."
I'm over it, too, Kristen! Let's encourage each other. Let's be there for each other. Let's stop making others feel weak for their struggles. Let's stop tearing each other down and start building each other up. Let's stop judging each other and, for that matter, stop judging ourselves. Let's stop apologizing for who we are!
"Here’s the thing: For me, depression is not sadness. It’s not having a bad day and needing a hug. It gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming, and it shut down my mental circuit board. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure. Now, after seeking help, I can see that those thoughts, of course, couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s important for me to be candid about this so people in a similar situation can realize that they are not worthless and that they do have something to offer... It’s a knee-jerk reaction to judge people when they’re vulnerable. But there’s nothing weak about struggling with mental illness."
The older I get, the less I begin to care about telling people about my problems. I'm starting to feel less apologetic about it. It is still really embarrassing if I have a panic attack in front of anyone besides Tyler- its just so awkward when your crying and hyperventilating and you can't say why. But, really, would you blame a diabetic for having to take an insulin shot when they need it? No. So, why is it so uncomfortable for me to say, "I have to go home and take a Xanax." It shouldn't be embarrassing. I'm sick. I need medicine. Plain and simple.
I'm tired of being embarrassed of who I am and feeling less because of my mental illness. Aren't you tired of it? Maybe if we all get on board and start advocating we can erase the stigma. Love each other, no matter what. Love yourself, no matter what. If someone you know if struggling with a mental illness, encourage them to seek help. If you have a mental illness, do not be ashamed! While depression can make you feel so hopeless, there really is hope out there. Seek help. Find a good psychiatrist, talk with a counselor, discover a higher power. Use all means possible to get help. There is no shame in needing help.