Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Blasting the lid off the can of shame and embarrassment that is depression!

Today, Bell Canada is doing their Let's Talk campaign, which is striving to take away the shame and silence that often comes with depression and mental illness.

Clara Hughes is involved for the second year in a row.  You might not be aware of this lady if you're outside of Canada, so just a quick review:  she's a six time Olympic medalist.  Six.  Oh, and they are from both the summer and winter games.  Cycling and speed skating.

She has natural red hair.  She has sparkling green eyes and a big stunning, joyful, honest smile with a cute little gap between her front teeth.  She's obviously got the the body of an Olympian.  And she's been very open about the depression she dealt with after her first Olympic win.

You know, I've been told over and over that exercise is really good for beating depression, so yeah, I was pretty flattened to hear that an elite athlete battled with it too!  Man, what hope do the rest of us have?

Well, I think it's one of those things that doesn't really care who it hits.

In her case, the letdown after reaching that huge goal was devastating.  

We all have our own story.  I think it's so important to share our stories because we are not alone.  We aren't weak.  We feel alone and weak but we're not.

A doctor on TV this week made a very important point: don't ask somebody you suspect is depressed "what's wrong" because how the hell can that be answered?  If I knew what was wrong, I'd do something about it myself!!!!  It's too difficult to pinpoint it, so just ask.  Is there a chance you've got some depression?  Would you consider going to see your doctor?  Can I take you out for a walk?  Want me to buy some groceries for you?

Because the worst thing to do is... nothing.  Someone dealing with this should not be hanging around in that state, and it's next to impossible to get out of it alone.

Never be ashamed to ask for help.  I was.  I probably could have gotten help years earlier, but I put all the effort into "normalizing" and putting on the functional face just to get through a day.  My own family didn't know how bad it was.  I didn't even.

So don't bother trying to be "okay."  I'm a big believer in feeling how you are feeling.  It's what it is.  And here's the thing: it doesn't have to be permanent!

I'll tell you right now how my mental state is:

Pretty okay.

I am sleeping pretty well.  I go to bed early, take at least half an hour to get ready for bed, and read for awhile.  Say goodnight to my kids.  Turn off the light.  Talk to my husband.  Talk to God.  Pat the snoring Pug and close my eyes.

I still don't like waking up but I do it.

I have medication that works.  Yay!

I don't have three naps a week anymore.  Sometimes I can get through a week without a nap at all!

I take care of my horses every day, and I cherish them.  I am actually enjoying the physical work involved!  It's been a long time since I felt that way.  I have killer biceps and you know what, I am kind of proud of my physical strength.

I have the Official Best Pshrink Ever.  I see him ever week or two.  I got an ADHD diagnosis, which is beginning to explain a lot about me. It really helps to talk it all out, sort through anything on my mind, figure out how I can make my life better.  He's there to listen and guide.  And I don't have to tell anybody else what I talk about in that room.

I still believe we should stop saying "Crazy" like it's a bad thing.

I still cry a lot but sometimes it's not from being so deeply sad, but because I feel everything, and it's just the way I am.

To be totally honest, because that's what I'm doing here, I have pretty much drawn my life into a very small focus.  I don't go out much or call people, I don't even blog as much as I used to, but it's not from withdrawing from life -- it's that I am absolutely focussed on my own quality of life and my own family.  It's what I have to do right now.  I believe my kids are better off for it and I feel pretty alright about that.  I hope I make sure my friends know I still love them and I know for sure I'll be the life of the party again!

I laugh vigorously every day and it is fantastic.

So there you go.  Getting hit by mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, it doesn't mean you're weak, it doesn't have to define you, and it doesn't mean you'll be miserable forever.  It'll come and go.  You'll find ways to deal with it and you'll figure out how and when to ask for help.  You're still breathing and you're still talking.

Keep up the good work!


mugwump said...

You are the best.

Laura Crum said...

Heidi--I went through a severe depression that lasted a year and a week. I know exactly when it hit and when I came out of it. It was as sudden and severe as having the flu. No way could I explain it to anyone who had not been through it. They absolutely could not understand why I couldn't just pull myself out of it. I could not understand what was happening to me. It truly felt more like a severe case of the flu than anything else. I can second everything you say in your post. I have to add that I got help (good shrinks, too) but meds did not help me (tried at least a dozen sorts). Time helped. Change helped. Friends trying to be there for me helped. Mostly I just hung in there. I am grateful every day that the depression left me over ten years ago and did not return. It taught me a lot, by the way. In the end, it gave me a gift.

Great post.

Laura Crum said...

Also--there was/is a great post on depression on "Hyperbole and a Half" blog. If I was techie enough to make you a link to it, I'd do it, but I'm lame with that sort of thing. But the post is worth reading.

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh- Adventures In Depression. Laura, I laughed and cried and then cried some more. She totally nailed it.

You know, people who haven't been through don't get it, they don't understand, and that used to piss me off, that lack of understanding and the attitude that I should just "pull up my socks" and get on with it. But I wouldn't wish it on anybody so I remind myself how great it is that they don't know how it feels!!

I would like to hear more about the "gift". I think I know what you mean.

Mugwump - you are too.

Laura Crum said...

Heidi--Well, it was a little bit like Allie (?) wrote in "Adventures in Depression". I lost my fear of certain things cause I just didn't care what happened to me. And that led me to take some chances that led me to a happy new life. In retrospect, my depression brought me the wonderful life that I have. But like you, I wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone. Even someone who has done me a great wrong.

Biddie said...

I will always love you. We don't need to talk on the phone everyday, or spend every minute together.
We get each other.

Laura Crum said...

Heidi--After thinking about it, I realize there is a lot more I could say about the gifts depression brought me, but its too long and complicated for a comment. I don't mind talking about it, though--feel free to email me at laurae@cruzio.com if you're interested in chatting about it. I did try to write about depression in my 6th novel (Breakaway). And its funny--people who had been through depression liked that book. Those who had not pretty much hated it.

jules said...

You are in inspiration to me Heidi!

Heila said...

Thanks Heidi, I totally agree with everything you wrote. Especially about not saying crazy like it's a bad thing! I told someone last week, since it's me who takes the meds I can call them crazy meds if I want to.

The gifts that depression gave me were a good psychologist who sorted through my issues (not all related to depression) and opened up a world for me that had not existed as a possibility before, directly leading to a relationship and eventually marriage with the most amazing man. Also the will and gumption to admit to myself that I no longer believe in the things I thought I believed in, and changing my life for the good.

The fact that it's 10 years since I've been diagnosed and probably a good 25 since my first episode, yet I still haven't found a medication combo that quite works - that rather sucks. I recently saw a new psychiatrist and I'm feeling very confident about his approach. We are trying one last AD (Venlor) and if that doesn't work will move away from AD's and just go for mood stabilisers. Oh, and probably change the label from depression to bipolar, not that I care too much what they want to call it as long as I'm feeling human.