By: Dani Kessel
If you’ve ever read my personal blog Old Soul, Young Heart, you’ll know that I am very open about my struggles with mental illnesses. I suffer from at least 5 diagnosable mental illnesses including Major Depressive Disorder. As a mental health activist, I try to break down the stigma, start a conversation, and that means leading by example.
So here we go.
I am currently going through a depressive episode. It has now been three weeks of pushing through the symptoms. I deal with both physical symptoms like headaches, exhaustion, lack of appetite, and I deal with mental symptoms like loss of interest, hopelessness, irritability, feeling worthless, even numbness. Now that I am on antidepressants which work (I finally found the right combination for me), my Major Depressive Disorder is significantly more manageable. But, they don’t take all my problems and symptoms away, so I catch a lot of criticism from people who don’t understand or empathize with my experience. When this happens, I am reminded of the metaphorical explanation I gave one of my previous therapists.
Imagine that you are standing in a field of fog. The fog surrounds you so heavily that you can’t even see three inches in front of you. You can feel the weight of the fog crushing you. It’s so heavy that it renders you immoble. The air contains so much moisture that you are breathing in water and drowning. That is what my clinical depression is–an immovable and inescapable weight pulling me into an abyss of hopelessness. Now, imagine that the fog clears up. You look in front of you to find spikes, barbed wire, and a variety of other obstacles. Now that the fog has lifted, you are capable of navigating the terrain. You can see, move, breathe again. That’s great, but it doesn’t make the journey ahead, in and of itself, any less difficult.
My clinical depression most definitely lifts courtesy of my antidepressants. When I take my meds, I am capable of functioning in a way that’s impossible without them. You can ask my friends and family. I am immensely healthier since starting my antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and PTSD meds. Unfortunately, they are not a cure-all. I still have to cope with the stressful, sucky things in my life. Trust me, I have plenty of that to go around. That also doesn’t even begin to account for the serious traumas that I’ve experienced or the anxiety I have on a daily basis.
So, why am I telling you this?
There is a common misconception that people who take medications for mental illness are broken. It’s often seen as a weakness. People say to just do yoga or meditate or go to therapy or “cheer up because someone else always has it worse.” I am not saying these things are worthless. (Except the last one! Suppressing emotions with reasoning that others have it worse is very unhealthy and can lead to further mental problems.) But, I am sharing my depression story to break down the stigma surrounding antidepressants. If your brain cannot make the right amounts of neurotransmitters on their own, synthetic is okay. I am sharing my story for those of you afraid to reach out for help. I know how terrifying it is, but you are brave enough to take that leap. I am sharing my story for all of you who feel completely isolated in your mental health journey, whatever that may look like. You aren’t alone.
Mental illness is one of the hardest battles we all could ever fight. We constantly wear ourselves thin pretending to be okay. But, it takes so much strength to wake up every single day. Grant yourselves the same grace and patience you would give others.
You aren’t a broken person.
I am not a broken person.
We aren’t broken people.