Clear minds prevail. This is one of the few tidbits of wisdom that works as my mantra. That and karma needs no explanation. Sometimes knowing that doesn’t help. It is in those moments I know that my depression has taken over and this is not just another bad day. Because a bad day I can sit back, think about something such as gazing at my daughter every morning when I wake up, my dog when she falls asleep with her whole foot in her mouth, the nights I spent crashed on my mom’s couch—and smile. These memories help me distinguish between a bad day—which I am capable of changing as long as I am willing to, and a day where my depression is manifesting—which requires medication review and/or therapy to get out of.
I find that too often people who’ve never experienced it think of mental illness as an excuse. Well I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not the case. Anyone can look at me– my achievements, my work ethic, my goals and dreams—and see that I am not someone who is easily stopped. I’m not here to brag or boast, but to use myself as an irrefutable example of how debilitating mental illness can be. And I suffer from 4 of the most common mental illnesses (4 if we are being technical, 2 if not).
Now some science: Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects 3.1% of the US population, Panic Disorder affects 2.7% of the US population, Social Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8% of the US population, and major Depressive Disorder affects 6.7% of the US population. (AADA, 2018) I have all of these, which can be lumped into just depression and anxiety.
Did you know that a whopping 25.1% of our children between 13-18 suffer from some sort of anxiety? Or that 50% of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with some sort of anxiety? Or that anxiety disorders develop from many risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life events? Yes, I said genetics.
Now, to get to my point. Do not tell someone who is suffering from mental illness to get over it. If you don’t understand what they are going through ask them. Know that it is NOT an excuse or attention seeking behavior (and honestly if it IS attention seeking behavior there is probably and underlying issue!!). If you suffer from mental illness don’t expect everyone to understand, you have to learn to ignore the negative comments or if you’d like, educate them. There are obviously many levels and even types of depression and anxiety. Triggers, or what sets them off, vary from person to person. Therapy helps identify triggers and how to avoid them or navigate through them. But sometimes we can’t do it alone. We call out for help in our own ways. A blog. A Facebook post. A phone call, text message, isolation, sleeping all the time or not at all, fresh cuts on the body, nervous actions and behaviors, lashing out, irritability, and the list goes on and on and on.
If someone’s behavior suddenly changed or if you’ve noticed anything weird try to get them to talk about it. I can say personally asking if I’m okay isn’t going to cut it. I’m going to say I’m fine, or life is life, or the usual. I work best with folks I can relate with when I’m going through these times. People that say—I know, me too. Start the conversation with something you’ve personally struggled with and allow them to bring up their own struggles. Or force them into your company. When I’m struggling the thought of doing anything or being around anyone is nauseating and gives me a headache. So if you ask and I blow you off or act irritated know that is not me. It is my anxiety speaking, because once I’m doing something or with someone I love it. Depression/anxiety just makes me forget the things that I enjoy.
Bear with us, know it isn’t personal, know it isn’t an excuse, and don’t let us suffer if you can help. A simple me too makes a world of a difference. Hearing it from a few people is what pulled me out of my last depressive moment. Well and medication change—but the help from others is what made me clear headed enough to look at my medication.
Until Next Time…