With the recent proclamation that May would be Mental Health Awareness Month I was pleased to see my peeps getting some representation. Even if, at the time I wasn’t feeling any particular solidarity with them.
See here’s the thing, I’m crazy. Okay, technically I’m not supposed to say that. The reason escapes me at the moment, but something about stigma? Generalization? Whatever, it gets across the basic idea that on some level my mind is wired wrong.
I have a therapist, and take lots of medicine. It took a long time for me to seek help and even longer before I saw real progress. I have what they call fast-cycling massive depression. For awhile one doctor even thought I might be bi-polar, which was exciting and terrifying. Being bi-polar is like the diabetes of mental health, manageable, but not really curable.
When I switched doctors and realized that I never had anything resembling mania the focus shifted to my anxiety and the depression. Kind of a self-fulfilling circle there. I was anxious about slipping back into depression, which could last weeks, which made me more likely to become depressed because of how worried I was about it.
Really quick, being depressed is not the same as being sad, not even a little. I tried going to a counselor and she suggested a ‘gratitude journal’ so I could reflect on all the great things I have going for me. This was probably the least helpful thing any ‘professional’ has ever suggested to me. I already knew I shouldn’t be depressed, that I have no outside persistent influence that kept me from enjoying life. That’s what makes the depression so hard to deal with. Not only do I feel terrible, I don’t think I deserve to feel bad because I have it so good.
If you take nothing else from this blog, take this, depression isn’t the same as being sad. When you feel sad, usually there is a reason and once you deal with that reason you can feel better. Depression offers no relief. It is constant and overwhelming, like drowning while everyone else seems to have no trouble swimming. “Why can’t you just kick your damn legs?” “Do you want to drown?” “You fail at everything anyway so don’t even bother trying to swim.” That’s depression.
Things have changed a lot for me over the past year. I like to think I’ve gotten better. Hell, some days I feel like I’m cured and over it all. So, yeah when I heard it was Mental Health Awareness Month, initially I didn’t feel the need to say anything. Not my place, I wasn’t feeling ‘crazy’ anymore. Until, I was.
This is where it gets hard and murky. Usually I’m fine. I follow my treatment plan, have a super supportive family, and practice cognitive mood techniques, even though I often think they are stupid. Even so, sometimes I feel the depression pulling me back in.
Recognizing it isn’t the same as fighting it. Being able to see when I’m becoming withdrawn and miserable doesn’t always mean I’m able to combat it, because usually by the time I realize I’m depressed again, it’s already too late. It can be set off by anything, or occasionally nothing. One minute I’m me and the next I can barely find the motivation to drag myself to my pillow fort in retreat.
What I’m trying to say is that mental health is hard and for a lot of people it will always be hard. There is no cure, no definitive diagnosis. You can spend years thinking you are chipping away at the problem only to discover that the cause may have been something else entirely. There’s no simple blood test for crazy. No magic pill.
I’m learning to forgive myself for my bad days. Trying to show myself that one bad day doesn’t mean I’ve fallen all the way back to the start. Sometimes it will be a struggle, and sometimes it will feel like too much. That’s okay. I have to tell myself that this is okay.
If you or someone you care about suffers from an invisible mental health issue, let them know that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to not always feel ‘normal’ or sane. You have to just keep going because, eventually, there will be a good day again.