I am not sad. I am not going through a phase that I will outgrow; I have major depressive disorder. No matter how happy I am, how many of my goals I achieve, I know I will always have depression. I do not mean that to be defeatist, I mean it to be pragmatic. My depression is manageable.
I have survived for 32 years despite my best efforts. Consequently, I talk about mental health a lot because it affects me every day. I talk about it with my therapists, my friends, my family, the Internet. I talk about my scars from self-harm, my suicide attempts, my battle with addiction, the miscarriages I had, and the continuing, day-to-day frustrations of living with my disorders.
But there is one feeling that’s unnecessary: the loneliness, and in my time supporting my wife, I’ve never felt more lonely. In times of crisis we tend to wall ourselves away from each other because we’re too afraid to talk about what we’re experiencing. In all of my internet searching, it felt like I was the first husband who had to take his wife to the psych ward, because no one out there was talking or writing about it.
I went to the therapy sessions with a new determination. I allowed myself to let the feeling of shame that was buried deep, bubble up the surface, and fully experience it. I recalled the people and early experiences that had impacted my self-perception. The therapist compared mental health issues to having diabetes, when I thought of it like that, it didn’t seem as life-defining.
Learning about stigma, and how a person’s perceptions and attitudes toward someone with a mental illness is the biggest barrier towards them receiving proper treatment, deeply concerned me and lead me to seriously question how I could help make a change. I believe that my years of daily experience of what it is like to live with someone suffering from a mental illness and my passion for helping others obtain proper care have put me in a unique position to show compassion and make a lasting impact for those suffering from and indirectly effected by this issue.
Stigma exists. Two out of three people who are affected by mental illness don’t seek help or treatment. The day I received treatment was the day I took my first step towards recovery. Although some days I tend to take a step back, I know I will wake up the next morning and take two steps forward.
For example, while I was feeling extreme joy for my family’s experience that day and words like depression could not have been further from my mind, it did not change the fact that it was still a part of me. Sometimes it’s present, sometimes it’s dormant, but it’s always there and I am learning to take ownership over it equal to all the other parts of me.
On March 1st, our lives irrevocably changed. My work is to ensure that this change will not be in vain.
I support Bring Change 2 Mind, and hope that you will join me. Please share this opportunity with your community, and help to support an extraordinary cause – ending stigma! Treat yourself or someone special as we help raise money and awareness at the same time (10% of proceeds of items purchased from this link now through September 30th will go to Bring Change 2 Mind). Please spread the word.
The biggest relief from my depression came when I stopped lying about it. Depression was a secret I kept for too long. I think it was crushing me to not talk about it. I was denying a part of myself for so long. I felt an incredible relief when I won nationals and someone came up to me and said, “So, you think you still have depression?” My response was “Yes. Yes, I do.”