Because apparently this week has been Depression Awareness week, I thought I would share something.
Everyone who knows me knows that I love to share anecdotal stories about life. Not just my life, but stories I in which I may have played a small role or even only witnessed. They can be funny or serious, casual observations or emotionally charged. There are literally millions of stories which make up all of our lives. I just happen to enjoy sharing some of the ones that make up mine.
A number of years ago, I sliced my wrist open on a piece of broken Pyrex at work. Yes, it was an accident. I spent over six hours at the hospital, had plastic surgery to reconnect the artery and tendon which had been severed. I have a large scar on my right wrist (photos in my gallery), numbness and reduced function of my right hand. The occupational therapist sat me down to have a talk when I was nearing completely of my therapy. She wanted to talk about public perception of a wrist scar. I replied “No one who knows me would be surprised and I do not care what others think.”
I bring this up for a couple of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that it only took a short while before the reactions of strangers did bother me. I would wear long sleeves all the time, accept change with my left hand, make snarky (though amusing to me) comments about the looks on people's faces, etc. Although the scar is still clearly visible, it is no longer red/pink and so for the short period of time it takes to accept change, shake hands, and other small social interactions, I no longer hide it and rarely get “reactions” to it.
The second reason is more serious and more personal.
One thing I am not so talkative about is my own personal struggle with depression. Many people know that I suffer depression, it is simply not something that I talk about. Over the years, I have tried to open up about it to a few people. I say tried, because most often, they were not the type of friend I had hoped they were and “dealing” with my condition wound up pushing them away. Just because you feel some bond between yourself and another person, does not guarantee that they feel the same. Even if people do sympathise, they do not want to get that involved with others. So I wind up hiding it, even lying about it just so people don't have to be inconvenienced by me. I know I am not alone. I have a few friends whose conditions are far worse than mine and they all have similar stories.
I started on antidepressants when I was 16 years old. Over the course of four years, I overdosed twice. Not seriously enough for anyone to raise alarms and both times were written off as “accidents”. I went to a psychiatrist, really did not like the experience and only went that one time in high school. There was no discussion of triggers or causes for my depression. It was all “Here, take these pills. You will feel better.” The doctor seemed convinced that I was having some sort of identity criss. That wasn't it at all. I knew who I was. I knew what I was. I was and am relatively comfortable with that. I wanted and still want to address the causes of my depression cycles, not mask them with drug induced blandness.
I had some great counselling when I was at university and eventually, with a few small relapses, got off the pills. There was no cure or solution, but a bit of management that helped me cope without giving up a sense of living.
I am certain we have all seen those social media awareness campaigns attempting to bring attention to mental illness. The “You wouldn't tell a cancer patient to “get over it”, so why would you tell that to someone suffering mental illness?” ones. And yet, dismissal is likely the most common response, even from family and friends. The people you most want, and perhaps expect, to be there for you, to support you, to see the signs that you are spiralling, simply aren't. Instead, it's “Oh, you are in one of your moods” followed by a prolonged silence as they wait for you to “get over it.”
Everyone gets depressed sometimes, but suffering depression is not the same as “getting depressed”. Everyone has that “I am depressed because <insert rationale here>”. But there is also the “I am depressed.” There is no “because”. It just is. Many people will never understand the struggle of trying to break that cycle. Many people will not understand the effort of time and again trying so hard to not break down and let it all end. Many people will never know personal impact of being in a perfectly good mood one moment and feeling completely empty and on the verge of tears the next. They will never know how it feels to pull out of a parking lot with a smile on their face and singing along badly to some song only to pull over a short while later because they aren't sure they even want to make it home.
This is a small glimpse of what I have gone through off and on for most of my life. It is similar to what many of my friends go through every day. I do not speak for them because we all have different experiences. This is a part of my story.