I Am Struggling But I Am A Person

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I Am Struggling but I am a Person

[Note] Odd-numbered Panels are under a column labeled “Physical Illness” and Even-numbered Panels are under “Mental Illness”

Panel 1

[Image] A grandparent and a blonde woman at a table, with brunch foods in front of them. The Grandparent looks concerned, and the woman has a bandage on her forehead.

Grandparent: You should go get that checked out

Panel 2

[Image] Same grandparent, looking happy, now sitting across the table from a different young woman with a ponytail, who looks sad.

Grandparent: Just think happy thoughts!

Panel 3

[Image] Two people around a water cooler. One is a concerned-looking man, and the other is the woman with a bandage on her forehead.

Man: Don’t try to hard or overexert yourself

Panel 4

[Image] The same man at the water cooler, now looking disgusted, speaking with the woman with the ponytail, holding a cup from the cooler, looking downward.

Man: Maybe you should exercise more?

Panel 5

[Imgae] The blonde woman, sitting on a chair, crying. A brunette woman, looking concerned, speaking to the blonde woman.

Brunette: Do you want any medication?

Panel 6

The same brunette, now speaking to the ponytailed woman crying on a chair, and looking angry.

Brunette: You should/ shouldn’t be on medication!

Panel 7

[Image] Two women on a couch. One is the blonde woman with a bandage on her forehead. The other has dark hair. Both look happy.

Dark-haired woman: You’re not alone. I’m here for you.

Panel 8

[Image] The dark-haired woman now speaks to the ponytailed woman from previous panels – who has her arms crossed, looking downward – on the same couch. The dark-haired woman has her hands up in frustration and looks angry.

Dark-haired woman: Just snap out of it!

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Full story

I am one of millions.  I am a part of a group of people who are numerous, widely functional, and important to society.  I have a mental illness.

My particular illness is depression.  Now before you a.) assume I’m a whiny anxiety-ridden teenager or b.) think something like, “oh, and here I thought you had a real problem!” let me tell you a little bit more.

I’m not a teenager.  I’m a married adult with a life I’d think of as pretty “normal.”  I’m educated, and I have a resume full of promotions.  I’m productive sometimes, and lazy sometimes.  I have good days and bad days, just like anyone else.  I have hopes and dreams and frustrations and disappointments, just like you.  The only difference is, in order to stay that way, I take a tiny little pill every morning.

When I don’t take that tiny little pill, the bad days become the good days, and the good days disappear.  Then the bad days get worse.  Then days, themselves, disappear, because getting out of bed seems utterly and completely useless.  When I do get out of bed during those days, my partner doesn’t let me drive, and I start thinking things about the subway that I know I shouldn’t.  These are the things that, after years of being terrified, finally convinced me to ask for help.  And, lo and behold, I am one of the lucky ones – the help helped!  And fairly quickly as well!

My mother’s day this year was spent listening to a barrage of advice from a parent with whom I shared this information. ( Big mistake.  Ugh.)  Even as I tried to turn the conversation to friendlier, brunch-y topics, the lectures would come. Sadly, none of it was anything I hadn’t heard before.  “Just think happy thoughts”; “why not try reading a happy book?”; “maybe you should exercise more”; and my personal favourite, “You shouldn’t be on medication.”

I grant you this: psychology/ psychiatry is full of debates and theories, and the idea that medication is a temporary measure is not necessarily a bad one. Nor are the ideas of positive thoughts or exercise.  But the idea that you are suggesting something I couldn’t possibly have thought of is ridiculous.  Sorry, but yes, I did consider trying to be happy – my depression isn’t going to go away because I just needed a reminder to smile.

I am me.  And right now, at this time, what works for me is what works for me.  It may not work for you, and that’s fine, but you’re not me.  Everyone has an opinion about mental illness – even those who try their darnedest not to let the stigma get to them.  I understand that.  For the most part everyone means well.   It’s also exactly why the stigma remains, and why the multitude of mental illnesses out there are all so misunderstood.

Or, to put it another way, it’s why I can only say something like this through an anonymous blog.  Please remember, I am struggling yes, but I am a person.  Not an illness, not a statistic, and not an opinion.

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Comments

1 response to “I Am Struggling But I Am A Person”

  1. PM91 says: |
    September 17, 2014 at 1:08 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I too struggle with depression and have for the last several years as far as I can tell. I used to get frustrated whenever I received these generic responses. “Just don’t think those things!” “It’s all that medication!” or “It’s because you’re NOT taking your medication.” My personal favorite, “It’s all in your head, your making it up and exaggerating things.” Yes, it is in my head. THAT’S the problem.

    I’m now in my early twenties, but a few years back when I finally realized that I needed to get help and speak up about my depression, I spoke with by parents about how I was feeling and let them know that I would be starting counseling. Unfortunately for me their response wasn’t what I had hoped for. My father dismissed it as nonsense and a need for attention and my mother proceeded to walk on eggshells whenever I was around so as not to “upset me.” The situation was not improved after I was prescribed antidepressants. Eventually things got to be so bad, I simply stopped going to counselling and told my parents I was better. My physician continued prescribing my medication and I took it without their knowledge.

    For a while I resented them for not being supportive or understanding. It directly led to my keeping it a secret from my extended family and even close friends. What I’ve come to realize is that many people don’t realize that depression manifests itself physically as much as mentally. There’s aches and pains and a sense of ennui that you can experience. But more importantly, for someone who has not experienced depression, it is near impossible for them to relate. They can’t understand why you don’t want to get out of bed our why you just sleep all the time. I have gotten somewhat better on my own. Like you said, good days and bad days. But it’s still a struggle.

    I went off on my own tangent, sorry. But thank you for this story. You’re not alone in your struggle and reading your story gave me the courage to tell you mine.