This is Depression

December 21, 2022

                                                                




There is a sorrow that transcends time and place, it comes from every direction and pierces you from every angle, moves through you into the earth and back out again, breaking back open the wounds that had barely just healed. It sits then in its non-place inside you, for a while, before making itself known to the world through words you don’t mean to say, tones you don’t mean to use, messages you don’t mean to send through the movements of your body, the micro expressions of your face. This sorrow will not be caught or categorized. It is not solid enough to see as a thing, but it is too dense to see through, it has no defining lines but defines everything you touch. I have met myself outside of this sorrow, and what I saw was good–a whole being, formed and certain, with qualities I could name, and which I liked, loved even, and so desperately wanted to bring back with me to battle the dark place.

Seeking Sanity

I have struggled with varying degrees of depression, anxiety and panic disorder throughout my life. I have ridden emotional rollercoasters so intense I was sure they’d do me in. And yet few people know this about me. I didn’t grow up at a time when people talked about these things openly; in fact, any indication that you weren’t 100% upstairs was sure to elicit some pretty negative—and often detrimental reactions. The going theory–as I understood it–was simple: you were either sane or crazy. 

Sane meant you were in control of your thoughts, emotions, and behavior; crazy meant you weren’t (and thus belonged in a mental institution). Period. As explained to me by various people without a clue: depression came from a weak-will; anxiety from sheer wimpyness; and panic from some combination hypersensitivity and hysteria. So, the message was clear: my suffering was due not to (what we now know is) faulty wiring in my brain, but to significant character defects. The solution? Buck up and keep my suffering to myself. A mighty tall (and unhealthy!) order.

The Stinging Stigma 

The term mental illness is a tricky one. It can mean anything from depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and is inclusive of all degrees of severity—from a chronic malaise to outright debilitation. Without fail however, it conjures the image of someone who can’t hold it together, is ever at risk of losing control, potentially dangerous at worst, simply unreliable at best, but ultimately someone you don’t want in your life. However much valuable information has been made available to us, the stigma remains, and it ain’t pretty! 

The Truth

But here’s the reality: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 1 in 5 adults experiences some form of mental illness in a given year, and 1 in 5 youth (13-18) will experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their young years. In fact, mental health issues are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for people 18–44. Which is to say that either we ourselves fall into this category and/or know a good many people who do. Yes, roughly 44 million people in this country go to work, care for their children, build relationships, and navigate daily life while trying to manage the effects of a malfunctioning brain. And chances are, we have no idea who these people are. To hear from some celebs who’ve chosen to share their stories check out: http://aplus.com/a/15-celebrities-standing-up-mental-illness-stigma 


 

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