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.