Sunday, January 29, 2017

Depression: Stop the Stigma

It's like I'm handcuffed to my couch and there is a drill sergeant in my face. He's screaming at me everything on my to do list as I struggle to get off the couch. No matter how much I try or how much I want to, I can't seem to get off the couch and get anything done.

This is how I described the depression I've been experiencing for the last year to my doctor. She put me on antidepressants on January 20th, of all days. I guess it takes a few weeks before I'll start to see any changes, so I'm waiting impatiently for that day to come. For the last year I have had an extremely difficult time doing basic household tasks like cooking and cleaning. My apartment looks like a tornado went through it most of the time. When I'm not at work I spend the majority of my time on my couch binge-watching TV shows on Netflix or playing video games. I've put off laundry, grocery shopping, and getting gas in my car for days until it got so dire that I was forced to. My sleep has been erratic. Sometimes I sleep a lot, much more than I should. Other times I can't sleep very well at all and only get a few hours of sleep at a time. The thing that is worst of all, is that I can't read. If you know me at all, you know how ludicrous that sounds. Just this month alone I've started 5 different books and haven't been able to make it past the 5th chapter in any of them before I lost interest. Most of these were books I've read before and I know I love.

I've heard a lot about the stigma attached to mental illness over the years. Having never experienced it or really known anybody who had I didn't realize that I was part of the problem. I've been struggling with the depression for (at least) a year that I know of. I kept it to myself for a long time. I finally confided in my mom when I realized I had a problem. I went through the Employee Assistance Program at my work and saw a therapist a few times. I told only a handful of close friends about my difficulties. I didn't want people to know that I was depressed. Why? Can you imagine having strep throat and not going to a doctor for antibiotics for over a year? It's crazy!

I've had a few friends stick up their nose at the idea of my taking antidepressants. I think they truly hope it will help me, but they expressed their disdain for this type of medication assuring me they would never take it themselves. I get it. I never thought I would have to, to be honest. I've always been a happy, optimistic, and generally good-natured person. I never thought depression would be a part of my life, but now it is.

2016 was a bad year for a lot of us. For me it was personally bleak because of the depression I was suffering from, the news that my father only had months to live, my deep unhappiness at my main venue at work, and of course the election. When I got home from my Christmas vacation this year things got worse. I called my mom and had a complete breakdown on the phone. It was so bad that she felt she had to ask me if she needed to worry about me doing anything stupid like a suicide attempt. I assured her that I was not that bad, but that really woke me up. I set up an appointment with my doctor and am finally taking care of the problem.

I am not asking for sympathy. In fact, that's the last thing I want. This post is just to share my story so that others who may be feeling the same way will go forward and get help. You don't have to go through this alone. Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor, a therapist, or me. See your doctor and if they think you should be on medication, take your medication without fear of other people's judgement. I almost started crying in my doctor's office when she said she was writing me a prescription because I was so relieved. I have been struggling with this for so long and it finally feels like I'm taking my life back. Don't wait to take back yours. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. It just took me a while to realize that.


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