Last week was a rough week for me emotionally and physically. My depression was kicking in hard, along with my migraines. Both have caused me a lot of grief. One thing that still bothers me is how few people believe that mental disorders are health problems.
We can all agree that heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are health problems, right? All are physical illnesses that hurt someone’s health. To save them, we go to doctors and try to find treatment to fix the problem.
But why is it that people can’t agree whether things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, or other mental illnesses are actual illnesses that need treatment?
I speak as someone who has one parent who doesn’t believe in mental illness, and one parent who knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to help. Recently, a sister revealed to me that she also struggles with depression. Such a little revelation means so much to me because someone else understands my struggle. I don’t have a lot of friends that I can talk to about my depression and anxiety, but I’m making an effort to stop treating my own struggles like they have to be secret.
Everyone struggles with something. I found a quote that kind of sums up what I mean by that.
Everyone is different, but we all share one thing-we all have problems. Everyone faces some kind of bully or another. Everyone has something wrong in their life. No one is perfect, and we have to remember that in our dealings with others.
Sometimes the bullies are visible. They are physical beings that pick on and abuse others mentally or physically. But sometimes the bullies are invisible. They are inside of our minds and mentally abuse ourselves. Those are the bullies that I deal with.
It’s a scientific fact that depression and other mental illnesses are actual problems with our brain. Like with autism, our brains process information differently than “healthy” brains.
Depressed brains lack serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin helps control our impulses. When we lack Serotonin, we become obsessive and impulsive (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), and we’re prone to suicidal tendencies and self harm. Dopamine helps our pleasure/reward center. A lack of Dopamine slows our reaction time, causes lethargy, and affects our memories. Our brain lacks certain essentials to function properly. That’s where anti-depressants come in. They help our brain produce Serotonin and Dopamine to boost what we were previously lacking. But it’s not a magical fix.
Mental illnesses create behavioral habits that are hard to break. Medication cannot solve everything. We have to think our way out of our problems. With depression, we have to stop our tendencies to focus on the negatives and single out the positives of any situation. With anxiety, we have to work to calm ourselves and think our way out of the stress. And that’s why it’s so hard. Trying to rework an unhealthy brain to work like a healthy brain is difficult. There are so many other issues and side effects as well.
But there are also things we can’t control, like our appetite fluctuations, nervous system functions, fatigue, and insomnia. Medication doesn’t fix those all the way, and we can’t just think ourselves into sleeping better and not being tired all the time. The only thing we can do is accept that others struggle with these issues and do everything we can to help.
Be very careful what you say to people with depression, anxiety, etc. As I said earlier, it’s like autism where brains interpret things differently. You can say something that’s trying to help, but we don’t interpret it that way. The biggest thing you can do is love us. Let us know that what we’re going through is okay and that it’s not this taboo thing that society has let us believe for so long. We should feel okay talking about ALL of our problems, not just the ones people can see.
Whether you understand what we’re going through or not, you can still let us know that we’re loved. But you also have to look out for us, because we often hide just how bad our problems are (because we don’t want to bother you, and we often think we’re not justified in feeling the way we do).
I won’t say how recently, but I’ve had some very dark episodes of depression and I’ve debated suicide in those dark moments. I’ve been very lucky so far, that every time I hit my lowest, a friend comes to my aid without knowing I needed their help and friendship. Because of these friends, I am still alive today.
If you are struggling, please know that you are not alone. There are always people who understand what you’re going through. Get help. Talk about your feelings. They are justified. There is a reason you feel the way you do. You can do it. You can make it through. I love you, even if I don’t know you.
Let’s work together to break the stigmas about mental illnesses. Please, share your story. Together we can help each other, and we can bring much needed attention to our issues.