You’re Okay

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time. I’m not sure what’s been stopping me, really. Maybe because it’s another one of those personal things that really doesn’t have much of a place on this kind of blog. But in wake of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams, it’s something that’s weighing heavily not only on my mind, but on everyone’s.

I’m not saying anything new when I write that depression is an unpredictable disease, or that its victims often take friends and family by surprise. The illness itself is bad enough. What’s worse is being afraid to confide in anyone. That shouldn’t be the case, but it often is.

I can’t speak for all victims of mental illness, but when my symptoms began, I tried to convince myself that it was nothing.

Mind over matter.

I just have to will it away.

You’re just being silly.

Telling myself that was hard enough. It was even harder to hear it from the people I loved. I was told that I was just hormonal. I was told I was just being paranoid. I was told that I didn’t need to see a doctor. I was told that I didn’t need medication. Hearing all of that made me feel crazier than I already did.

I should probably stop right there and tell you that I am not clinically depressed. My mom’s side of the family has a history of mental illness, mostly anxiety. My mom and my sister have both suffered panic attacks in the past and have been treated for anxiety. As for me, I’m more on the obsessive compulsive end of the spectrum. As I got older, it got progressively worse until finally, I would completely shut down at the thought of last minute changes. On top of that, I began suffering from PMDD. Long story short, those few days of depression a month were absolutely miserable. I felt worthless, pathetic, and worst of all, unworthy of everything and everyone I loved.

If those few days were unbearable, I can’t imagine the toll chronic depression takes on its victims. Seeing a doctor and getting on anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication was one of the best things I’ve ever done, not only for myself, but for my friends and family too. I became the person I was before the anxiety and the compulsions started. I’m myself again. I love my life and everything about it.

No matter what anyone says, there is no shame in seeking help. Being on medicine doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means your brain chemistry just needs a little help to balance itself out. It’s time we stopped treating mental illness as something that can be overcome by sheer willpower or by pretending it doesn’t exist. It does exist, and it claims victims, more now, perhaps, than ever before.

If you are suffering from any sort of mental illness, know that you are not alone. You’re okay, I promise. I know because I’m right there with you. If you know someone suffering, listen to them, support them, and encourage them to get help. It might just save a life.

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10 thoughts on “You’re Okay

      • It’s also human… sadly enough. A lot of people in today’s society just don’t want to accept depression as an illness. They are simply in denial. It reminds me of where alcoholism was 20 years ago… it was not considered an illness then. It was considered by many as a weakness in a persons character!
        It was something people didn’t want to talk about or they ignore and swept the problem under the rug. Now its widely accepted that alcoholism is a disease with a inherited genetic component.

        Today depression and all mental illnesses have the stigma that alcoholism suffered years ago. I know first hand because today I suffer with clinical depression. And even though I sought help and am in the early stages of treatment, that stigma and societies denial of the illness has forced me to be reluctant to talk about it.

        Hopefully one day that will change. But for now I take hope and comfort Jackie in the knowledge that you and others like you understand the struggle.

        Thank you for your kindness!

  1. I know exactly what you mean! I have been on anti-depressant tablets for a year now, and I’m back to who I used to be now: happy, smiling, relaxed, carefree and loving. I don’t see any issue with needing them to help me out. If I needed medicine for diabetes or arthritis, I would just be using medication to help with my ailments; how is this any different? I don’t think there should be a stigma against depression, but there still is, like people can just “snap out of it” or that “you’ll feel better tomorrow”. The chances are, you won’t, as mental illness or depression is something that doesn’t just go away. I have suffered with mental health issues for over 20 years and I have had real highs and lows, but I am just grateful to have come through it and be knowledgeable enough to support others in need.

  2. I read a good article on this today and liked this passage, “Dismissing the concerns of a genuine depression sufferer on the grounds that you’ve been miserable and got over it is like dismissing the issues faced by someone who’s had to have their arm amputated because you once had a paper cut and it didn’t bother you.”

    I am currently being medicated for both depression and anxiety. I know a lot of people that think mental illness is all made up and you just need to have a (or a better) relationship with God or meditate or something to get over it. It’s frustrating to not have a support system that believes there’s actually a problem. Thanks for your post!

    • That’s such an excellent quote and I completely agree! The thing is, I totally used to think that anxiety and depression were things that I could overcome because I’m such a little control freak. I don’t drink or do drugs because I have such a fear of not being in control of my body. But then, when my own anxiety, OCD, PMDD, whatever you want to call it, kicked in, I discovered that it wasn’t something I could control. I tried. I didn’t admit it or talk about it for a long time. But eventually, it just became too much, and I’m so glad I got help.

      I’ve heard the God argument, also. I’ve been Episcopalian my entire life. Of course, I’ve had my doubts, but ever since my senior year of high school, my faith has been pretty solid. My mental illness (even still I’m reluctant to call it that because I do not suffer nearly as bad as I know others do) has nothing to do with my relationship with God. If anything, He provided me with the strength to confide in my family and get help.

  3. Reblogged this on Author April L Wood and commented:
    REBLOG: You’re Okay, by Author Jacqueline E Smith “It’s time we stopped treating mental illness as something that can be overcome by sheer willpower or by pretending it doesn’t exist. It does exist, and it claims victims, more now, perhaps, than ever before.

    If you are suffering from any sort of mental illness, know that you are not alone. You’re okay, I promise. I know because I’m right there with you. If you know someone suffering, listen to them, support them, and encourage them to get help. It might just save a life.”

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