Monday, September 10, 2012

The Coward's Disease

This is not going to be a typical post. It won't be funny, but hopefully you will forgive me, while I talk about something very difficult...

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September tenth is World Suicide Prevention Day. Did you even know there was such a day? I didn't.

Breast cancer has a whole month of the year where everything you see is pink and you are informed about the horrors of detecting, having, and fighting cancer. It is public because it needs to be for women (and sometimes men) to be proactive about early detection and seeking help immediately. The combatants in the arena of cancer are rightly painted as brave gladiators and tough survivors.

But what about a condition that is just as deadly, but infinitely more difficult to detect?

In my experience, the reason there isn't more awareness around depression is because it is painted as coward's disease. People suffering from it are painted as damaged, flawed, and weak. Is it any wonder that those suffering from it, often do so in silence? Who among us wants to be portrayed as any of those things, especially when you already believe the worst of yourself?

Depression is a silent specter that stalks many throughout their lives, hiding away in the shadows, almost forgotten, but emerging at their most vulnerable to drag them down further into the abyss. If you suffer from depression, you always know it is there. It is there in the terrible thoughts you have while you do the most mundane of tasks. It is there in the nagging voice telling you that you are a waste of space and even though you have silenced it thousands of times before, some days you can't help but believe it. And, unlike cancer, there is no cure. It never goes away. You can medicate it into submission, but it will still be there and on low days, it finds you. The battle never stops.

It becomes a part of you, the pain and sadness. It festers and consumes everything, so you can't remember a time without it, and that in and of itself makes getting help scary. The familiar, however painful and awful, seems infinitely better than the unknown.

I was a coward. I did not wish to seek help, because how could I admit that my own mind had turned against me? I had a job, a loving boyfriend, a nice place to live, a family that cared...by admitting that I still wasn't happy, was I saying all of that wasn't good enough? How dare I even think that I deserved help when so many others have it so much worse?

Eventually, I got help and realized that depression may mean that I am broken, but I am not weak. I am not less than anyone else. I have a right to seek help, no matter what my situation, because my happiness matters.

I am proud to say that I am here today, still fighting. And most days, I would like to think I am winning. I'm here because my loving boyfriend, now my loving husband, supported me and forced me to get help. I'm here because my family loves and supports me everyday. I'm here because I will be damned if depression is going to steal even another moment of my life. But most importantly, I'm here because I choose to be.

But do not for a moment think that I am not scared. I am scared to write this. I am scared to talk about my experiences. I am scared that the depression will come back. I am scared that I will be judged as  tainted, damaged, and unfit. But I want to be here for others who suffer. I need to be here for them. I need it, because they need me. They need me to tell them that depression lies when it says that you only have death. Get help and tell it to go fuck itself. Life is worth the fight.

There is a lot of joy yet to find.

6 comments:

Audra said...

It's astounding to me that so many people suffer, yet we all seem to suffer alone. Depression is not a "mental" thing. It's not all "in your head" (figurativly speaking). It a certifiable and medical illness caused by fluctuations and irregularities of horomones in your brain. Just like someone with a thyroid problem or an auto immune disease, it's simply your body betraying itself. Yet it seems to be the least understood and the most taboo of all the ways your body harms itself. I say we take it to the streets that depression is nothing to be ashamed of!!!

Dana F. said...

Melissa- You are SO brave. You are NOT broken or weak, this is something that is a part of you- and you are courageous for sharing such a personal part of yourself. I am hoping it is cathartic and healing to share with others, I know you have helped others with sharing your experience. How very lucky you are indeed to have a loving husband and family who will love and support you through all the times, not just the happy ones... XO Dana

Melanie Burger said...

This is an amazing post. I was diagnosed with major depression back in 2005 after my dad died and have struggled with it ever since. A few weeks ago my doctor determined that I have developed an allergy to my anti-depressant which was causing me to break out in hives all over my body. I'm now in the process of weaning myself off of my meds and I have to admit, I am terrified. Me, unmedicated, is not pleasant or happy or fun to be around. I'm so glad that you've gotten to a place where you've gotten it under control and can be happy.

I think it's so important to talk about because there are so many of us out there who are struggling and you're right, when you already see the worst in yourself it makes it so hard to share something so negative with everyone else. But it always helps to know there are other people out there who I view as successful, talented, and wonderful (you among them!) who have struggled with the same issue.

Charleen said...

Great post about a very important issue. Thanks for sharing.

Melissa Bloechl said...

Thanks everyone. I did not expect this post to be my most popular one to date. I think this clearly illustrates just how many out there are suffering in silence - taking to the internet because there at least they are cloaked in anonymity while they try to find comfort and solace.

I just started my new pill this morning (Wellbutrin) in addition to my Zoloft for my seasonal depression, so we will see how that goes...hopefully with this pill, I will be able to shake the crippling exhaustion, aches, and the general sadness I get every winter.

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. We can do this.

Sarah Revels said...

Props to you. Depression is one of the most common illnesses in mental health and is a componant is many other health challenges. Getting help when you don't believe you are worth anything takes an astounding type of resolve and courage in my opinion. Love to you.

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