The pain of my depression was terrible. With mere words, I cannot begin to describe the despair. Thoughts of suicide were as soothing as a lullaby, yet I felt that I was already dead to the world. I was hollowed out, disconnected from life. When I did feel anything, it was sorrow, anger, anxiety or shame. Oh, I felt such shame for being so broken.
Deborah Shields, a woman who only knew me through an online chat group, was the first person to actually name my condition. She plainly told me in a private message “Heutzie, I think you are suffering from depression.” I was furious. Startled. Busted.
And I am forever grateful to her.
Once Deborah named it, I couldn’t deny that something was “not right.” I went to my doctor. I got a prescription for antidepressants. I stared at that bottle for days, giving it the stink eye, refusing to take the pills, refusing to believe I had a mental illness.
But the bold truth is I do.
My brain chemicals don’t work the way they’re supposed to. I take antidepressants, which are wonderfully effective for me. And like any other disease, I manage the illness. I have an open and regular relationship with my doctor. I exercise. I eat whole, healthy foods and cook from scratch. I get enough sleep. I limit my alcohol intake and I quit smoking. I accept help and talk through problems with friends or professionals (my swans). I keep my life balanced.
My depression, so long a part of my life, has made me who I am and who I am is splendid.
In Canada, May 5 to 11 is National Mental Health Awareness week. The US gives the topic the entire month of May. Good on them!