Friday, August 18, 2017

Struggle vs. Struggle

When you have depression, a "struggle" is more than a struggle. It is the end of the world. It is the most difficult thing to overcome. A struggle is an impossible task. It is despair.

When you have depression...

...and the dishwasher breaks, how can life go on? "Just one more thing that is broken. What is the point of life when everything breaks? Why do we even need to wash dishes? Why do we even need to eat? If we did not eat, then we would not need to wash dishes, then we would not need to have a broken dishwasher. Then we would not need to spend money on fixing the dishwasher. Who is going the call the repair man? I can't talk to him. I am about to cry. I can't answer the door when he comes. I am a mess. I don't know what to say to him. I am an idiot and I don't know a thing about anything. Do I have enough fuel to start up my "fake it till you make it" engine? I think I'm out of gas. I'm not sure I should have gotten out of bed today."

...and you have a cold, you feel like you really might die. "How can I possibly handle anything? I can't even deal with a measly little cold. There is no way I could handle anything worse. How could I ever have a baby? I am the most pathetic person in the whole world. Surely, I don't deserve anything good. Happiness will never be in my heart."

...and you feel like you said the wrong thing, you feel like you do not deserve to live. "Going over this conversation in my head over and over and over, I know I should have said something different. I feel so much pressure to say and do the right thing. How do I even know what is the right thing? I might as well never say anything to anyone ever again. I cannot live with this turmoil, I might as well be a hermit. I am no good to anyone. I do not matter to anyone. There is no one in the world who would care if I disappeared."

When you have depression, small struggles are debilitating. Every daily task is like climbing Mt. Everest. You feel like you can't handle anything. And because you realize these should be simple struggles, the fear of a bigger struggle happening to you is absolutely detrimental.

When you are getting treatment for depression, the medicine is helping, you are reading self-help information and practicing healthy coping skills, and you are receiving good quality counseling, a struggle is no longer the same struggle as it used to be.

When you are getting help for depression and your body and mind start to heal, you realize that there are different kinds of struggles. There are small struggles and big struggles. What used to be huge struggles, aren't so bad anymore. When you hear the word "struggle", it no longer instills fear and shaking nor means the end of the world. A struggle can actually mean a fun challenge.

I promise you there is a beautiful life on the other side of depression. I've been to the pit of hell, rock bottom, despair beyond despair, and I am here to tell you that there is HOPE, there is HEALING, and there are struggles that are actually FUN. You are not alone. Do not give up.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Depression is a real medical illness

Depression is an illness. It is not who you are.

I don't have any other way to describe it other than saying, depression is a disease in your brain; it's complex, it's confusing, and because of this, frustrating, but it's there.

Depression is NOT laziness. Depression is NOT ingratitude. Depression is NOT selfishness. When you are suffering from depression, you are NOT a bad person. Depression attacks the brain and causes all sorts of problems that YOU CANNOT CONTROL, no matter how hard you try.

I actively tried to heal myself of depression for eight and a half years. I dieted hard core. I exercised my butt off, literally. I took vitamins and supplements. I ate so many gosh-forsaken vegetables. I meditated. I prayed so hard I got callouses on my knees. I graduated college. I excelled at job after job. I fell in love. I got married. I gave up smoking. I gave up alcohol. I gave up coffee. I ran a marathon. I volunteered. Gosh darn it, I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT. You want to tell me I didn't try hard enough? I'll punch you in the face. Some people might even try to tell me that I tried too hard.

I just read several articles about the science of depression trying to formulate a summary. When I sat down this morning, I was going to write a technological post that highlighted the facts that depression is a real medical problem. However, I remembered feeling like those kind of articles really didn't help me when I was in the trenches. What helped me was knowing that the proof was out there, and once my brain was healthy again, I could go back and read and understand. If you want to read something "sciencey", read this article from Harvard Health Publications. Harvard, y'all.

Let me remind you AND MYSELF over and over and over that I have an illness, and I am not just an awful person...or lazy or spoiled or the worst kind of sinner. Depression is a real medical disease.

When you are suffering from depression, you are not the sum of what depression tells you that you are. You are not the sum of your symptoms. You are not the sum of what other people think of you.

Similarly, but OBVIOUSLY OBVIOUSLY OBVIOUSLY way different, someone does not choose to have cancer. It happens to you. Could you imagine telling someone with cancer that it's their fault? How heartbreaking would it be to hear someone say to someone with cancer that "if you just would have done some things differently, you wouldn't have this health issue" or that "you could be cured of it if you just changed your attitude and tried harder". Try telling someone with cancer that God gave you this suffering and you just have to offer it up. Try telling someone with cancer that "it's situational and once you get a job, or move, or find love, or volunteer you'll feel better".

I KNOW cancer is a million bazillion times different than depression. I will not pretend to understand cancer. I have absolutely NO IDEA what having cancer would be like. I have absolutely no idea how difficult it must be. But please let me draw the comparison that depression is like cancer in the way that you don't choose to have it. No one would ever choose cancer. No one would ever choose depression.

You can't let cancer go and see if it goes away. You can't let depression go and see if it goes away. You need medical help, whatever that might be.

Seriously, no one would choose depression. No one is choosing not to just "get over" depression.

People who are suffering from depression are some of the strongest, most committed, most compassionate, most caring, most generous, most loyal people you will ever meet. It is likely that they have lived through hell all alone without any support.

Finally getting help for depression does not mean that you are giving up, it does not mean that you are a failure. Getting help for depression means you are acknowledging the great MERCY OF GOD.

I believe God allows bad things to happen so that a greater good can come from it. He also works though other people and gives us the tools to help. Does He reach down His hand and cure someone right out in a dramatically miraculous way? Yes. But, I also believe that He works His miracles through the means He gives us.

I think Prozac is a miracle. It has miraculously changed my life.

In the past, I thought I would die. I wanted to die. Medicine saved my life. I am not a failure for taking medicine. I am not weak for taking medicine. I am acknowledging God's mercy and I will humbly take this little tiny pill because IT HELPS ME. Don't tell me it's all in my head. I know it's all in my head; my brain is suffering, my brain is flawed, my brain does not work the same way other people's brains work, and my brain needs help.

Depression symptoms actually make you feel like a failure. The symptoms actually cause you to think that you are a lazy, selfish, irresponsible, weak, angry, emotional, down-right-awful person. Depression makes you feel like other people think you are a failure too, whether they do or don't.

Something goes wrong in your brain. It could be sudden or gradual. The brain is so complicated. I don't know all the scientific facts. And I'm sure that we, as a society, have not yet learned all there is to know about the human body.

But we do know that depression is an illness. Getting medical help for depression can save your life.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A person is a person no matter how sick

Recently, someone said something to me that really stuck. You know who you are. Thank you for your wise words.

"A person being on medication for depression is no different than a person being on medication for high blood pressure or diabetes or anything."

You can tell yourself something over and over and over...
...then someone else says it and you're like "ah-ha!". Ya know?

You are no less a person if you take medicine for depression or anxiety or any other mental health problem.

Why is there is so much guilt/shame that comes with taking antidepressant medication? To admit you have depression requires you almost to admit that you are a failure, that you are weak, and that you can't handle pain. Depression, itself, is a disease in your brain that makes you feel this way. Then, in order to accept help, you have to look it, depression, in the face and say, "Yes, you are right, Stupid Depression. I am NOT good enough, I am NOT worthy, and I am NOT the way I wish I was. I admit that I can not do this thing called 'living' anymore on my own. Yet, Stupid Depression, I. DO. NOT. CARE. what you are telling me. Despite all the negative things you are making me believe about myself, I choose to try this medicine. Because I have hope for a better life. Because I have hope that I'm meant for more than misery. Because I have hope that all those things I believe about myself are not true."

There was once a time before antibiotics. We take them for granted now, but they are a modern invention to help people live longer and better lives. Antidepressants are also a medical advancement to help people live longer and better lives. It's different, yet also the same.

A person is a person no matter how small.
A person is a person no matter if they are born or unborn.
A person is a person no matter what they do.
A person is a person no matter if they have a job or not.
A person is a person no matter if they have a terminal illness.
A person is a person no matter what medication they are taking.