Thursday, September 4, 2014

Yes, I Suffer From Clinical Depression

You ever have that feeling that you're stuck in limbo, like maybe you're in some hyper-realistic dream that should end at any moment, and you'll wake up and everything will be normal and mundane and you'll kind of laugh to yourself about the crazy thoughts that must have bubbled up from your subconscious?  But it would be a nervous laugh, because sometimes the lines get really thin and move unexpectedly and you end up in uncharted territory, and you don't wake up, you never wake up, and eventually that surreal, dream-like feeling of unease, of holding-your-breath-waiting-for-things-to-be-okay is all you have.

Sometimes the things you know with absolute certainty turn out to be untrue. Sometimes the people closest to you turn into strangers. Sometimes you are weighted down with a knowledge or a burden or a bright slice of pain that feels like a weight you can't find a way to be free of, something tethered to you so fast that you'll never become untangled from it before it takes you down where the light doesn't shine and you drown.

Jeez, but that sound morose. Which doesn't make it any less real. Today is the National Alliance on Mental Illness Day of Action.  A commenter on a blog I frequent put out a call for people to spread the word.

So, let me tell you something. I suffer from Clinical Depression and Adjustment Anxiety Disorder. It's relatively new to me, just a couple of months. Of course time has become frustratingly elastic and those months seem impossibly long, with the time ahead seeming impossibly longer still. Right now I'm not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, even though I keep trying to squint hard enough to make it out. People tell me it's there. Sometimes I even believe it's there. Most times, though, it is all pain and darkness, and dragging myself from one minute to the next, distracting myself with work, with helping the kids, with doing the everyday things that need to be done for us to keep functioning.

I'm seeing a doctor and a therapist. I'm taking an anti-depressant and I have something to take when the acute panic attacks blot out everything but the pain and I squeeze my eyes shut so hard because I just can't stand to look at anything, because everything is bad and wrong and agonizing and impossible to bear even one second longer.  The feeling passes, but the specter of it hovers over me often, and I feel the beginnings of it creeping toward me, and I never know what might set it off again, because my world is full right now of hidden pits filled with sharp sticks, so well-hidden that I can't always see them and then suddenly I am falling.

The story of how I got here doesn't really matter much. Some people know some of it. A few people know all of it. In short, something really awful happened -- unbelievably awful -- which was quickly followed up by something else slightly less awful. And neither of these were just events -- like the unexpected death of someone you love, or a singular traumatic occurrence. These are ongoing things that I'm carefully trying to negotiate, sometimes with people who are not negotiating in good faith with me. So each day brings something new and hurtful and callous and unexpected.  I suspect I am becoming somewhat numb, because numbness may be all that's left as my defense. I suspect that someday I'll just write it all out, every bit of it, because I'll have nothing left to lose, and keeping it inside may be part of what is poisoning me.

Someday I may get better.

Why am I saying any of this today? Because, like so many "unpleasant" things, depression and other forms of mental illness are kept in the shadows. Lied about and covered up. Ignored. Looked down upon. Too much for certain people to deal with, and so they abandon those who need them most. I had a specific life experience that led to my depression, but many people don't have something that they can point to -- it just is.

And if you are feeling that way, or know someone who is, you are not alone. It is not your fault. Keep trying to help yourself, in whatever way you can. Seek out others who can help you. Don't be afraid to be open and tell people how you feel and what you need. Don't give up.

Someday you may get better.

Don't give up.

For more information about NAMI and #act4mental health click here

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