So what kinds of things does depression do to a person? Depression is just one small part of what NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) supports and provides information and resources for. You may hear different people say “I’m so depressed” or “That’s just too depressing” or something along those lines. But to those of us who actually battle with depression it’s not something that we toss around so lightly.
Some people have episodes of depression based on events that happen in their life such as the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job. Perhaps they are going through a divorce or some kind of an emotional adjustment such as the loss of a friend. There are times when a doctor needs to diagnose a low dose of an anti-depressant to help them to make it through their life change. This is very common and very expected and there is nothing wrong with that. Once their life levels out the doctor can take them off of their medication and all is well and they can go on with life as they did before. Once episode such as this in a person’s lifetime is very common.
However for around 16 million adults – 7% of us – that have major depression. That means that we have depressive episodes at least once a year even on our medications. We are people of all races, all ages and all economic backgrounds. We are your neighbors! We are your friends! We are your parents! We are your children! We are your bosses! We are your employees! We are the man or woman standing on the corner selling you newspapers for a dollar! We are anyone you see wherever you go! Seventy percent of us are women. And young adults 18-25 are 60% more likely to be majorly depressed than those over 60.
Just like any physical illness there are symptoms. You can smile, have make up on your face, have your nice clothes on, have your hair freshly colored and cut, carry a new purse and feel as if all you want to do in your head is run to your room close the door and sleep. Lying is the easiest thing in the world to do everyday when someone asks you how you are and you “I’m fine”. You know inside there is nothing at all fine within you.
When those around you find out that you are NOT ok and that you are fighting depression that’s when you see their backs instead of feeling their hugs. You know what I mean? They are thinking “Oh no – if I stay around her then she’ll probably drag me down too” or “I don’t know what to say to help her. So maybe someone else will so I’ll keep my distance.” Pretty soon when they see you no one else asks you how you are anymore. Then you start noticing no one comes by you. Maybe the smile and wave from far away.
This is the time when you remember what NAMI theme is this month. Do you remember? It’s #IAmStigmaFree and it means See the person and not the illness! Because if those of us who are depressed need ANYTHING it’s a hug and someone to listen. We don’t need to be ignored and see your back as you walk away. You know why? Because that actually makes us feel even more alone and more depressed.
I wanted to close by telling you a bit about my last few months and how my recent bout with depression has affected me. I’ve been grieving since my dad died on December 26, 2013. My parents lived in Ohio. I live in Tennessee. I am an only child. This summer my Mom decided to sell our house in Ohio and move down here. For the last year and a half I’ve been pressing my grief aside and pushing it down knowing I was going to have to face it sooner or later. So this summer was going to be it. My mom was due to move here on October 3. So as the summer moved along my anxiety was increasing. By the time August came I was in a full blown depressive state. I slept as much as 16 hours a day. I kept the room dark. I rarely bathed. I rarely washed my hair. I have always been a stress eater. I began eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. I reached out to my best friend and was turned away even after telling her how bad I was doing. I was in bad shape and I knew it. In that entire month I stepped out of the house 3 times. Once was to see my psychiatrist to increase my medications. Once was to go out with my daughter before she left for college. And after much coercion the third time was to finally see a counselor and begin grief counseling. It’s been a number of weeks later. I’m doing considerably better now. But today I went to the doctor. I stepped on the scale and saw that I had gained 20 pounds in the last 2 months. And my blood pressure was too high. I always have excellent B/P. And this one was entirely too high.
THAT is what depression can do to you. Somehow I knew I needed to get up out of that pit and climb back to the top. I knew I couldn’t let the depression win. There was no where left to go but further down.
Now please if you see me please don’t look at my weight and think about how I should take better care of myself. Please stay stigma free and see me and not my illness! I hope we can all do that for each other! It’s healthier for all of us and it makes us feel better emotionally too.