Thursday, July 29, 2010

The 800lb. Gorilla

There is an 800lb. gorilla in the room.

The thing no one wants to talk about, yet everyone knows is there, and no one wants to do anything about it. I want to take the time to get to the heart of what this blog is about: getting rid of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

In early 2004, I was diagnosed with severe depression. It was an all-consuming dark place. I stopped showering. If I got up during the day, it was to move from the bed to the couch. I couldn't work. And I couldn't figure out how to get out of it.

I had been going to my doctor, and a therapist, and a psychiatrist. Nothing really seemed to be working. Every doctor visit was a prescription for another damn pill. A damn pill that didn't do anything.

I hit bottom. I was emotionally numb. I couldn't feel anything. I didn't care. So, one day, I gathered up all the antidepressants I had been prescribed. I lined up their bottles on the counter. I thought, If I take ALL of these, SOMETHING has to happen, right? They have to do SOMETHING. And something was better than the nothing that I felt.

That was a real turning point for me.

I did have a series of bad things happen to me before my 2004 diagnosis. Those events alone would have been enough to send anyone into a clinical depression. But, as I started making progress in my therapy, I realized that I had been depressed long before that.

I don't know when it started exactly, but I remember being in a major depression when I was about 10 years old. No one would have called it that back then. But, I was always anxious. And I was extremely bored at school- not uninterested- I had near perfect scores in all my classes. I didn't really fit in with my classmates. I missed 60 days of school that year because of anxiety. Any other student would have been reprimanded or reported as truant. But, I still did all my work, and did it very well.

And, looking back, I see many other times in my life when I was affected by depression. If it is obvious to me now, it must have been obvious to someone else back then. I wish someone would have asked how I felt, or guided me toward getting help.

Now, I am well-versed the signs and symptoms of depression. I know that I am prone to cyclical depression. Especially since I have a child now, I need to be proactive about it. I need to be here, in the now, and be a good mommy to him.

So, that is what this blog it about. Talking about depression and mental illness. Reaching out. Encouraging those affected by depression to seek help.

This is why I walk for AFSP. By raising awareness about depression, we can help reduce the stigma associated with it. No one should have to go through depression alone.