Did you know that every 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness in a given year. Nearly 1 in 25 deal with a severe mental illness (ex: bipolar) and over half of all the mental health illnesses begins by the age of 14. Then, we can break it down even further. Of those adults, 60% didn’t receive any help with their mental illness. Kids ranging from 8 years old to 15 years old didn’t receive any help either. The last 2 statistics are so concerning to me. However, I was on the other side of this -a part of the 60% a few years ago.
January 31, 2017 is the day I was diagnosed with mild to severe depression with anxiety. This was the very first appointment with the rheumatologist at Cleveland Clinic. I remember being in the room and filling out all the forms and she came in to review them with us. I remember when she said “you have mild to severe depression with anxiety” and in that exact moment I thought she was totally off base and wrong. I wasn’t depressed – there was no way I was. She left for a bit and I remember looking at my Mom and saying I’m not depressed, something must be wrong. I filled out those forms honestly and I didn’t even realize that I was basically circling all the high numbers. The most common symptom of someone with chronic illness is depression. It’s stated that for every chronic illness there are about 1/3 that deal with depression.
In that moment – why was I denying that I had severe depression? I wasn’t really sure but now I know why. I was too afraid to admit that I couldn’t control my feelings. I was supposed to be happy all the time. I couldn’t let my health take another thing away from me. I was only looking through my depression lenses. I was afraid to admit this weakness. We talked about medications and she found one to try and I remember thinking what will this do, I don’t need it.
After a few weeks of taking the medicine I felt lighter and different. It was in the next few weeks that I was able to look back where I was in January and finally admit I was depressed. It took a few months to figure out the right dosing for me. I could start feeling myself getting depressed again so we would up the medicine until it was right.
A few years ago this was the first blog post I had written about my struggles with depression. I titled it Depression? I was talking about how so many of us view depression as a cuss word. Afraid to say it, you would tell someone another time it wasn’t appropriate to talk about. This was all so wrong! Why do we do this though? There is so much comfort in knowing you aren’t alone so why is everyone so closed off on this. It’s not a weakness. It’s something scientifically in your brain that you have zero control of. We can support each other. We have medicine and counseling and coping skills to help us deal with it. I have depression and take medicine for it and receive counseling.
I started counseling again with someone new in either November. It’s taken a lot of hard work but she is helping me so much. She talked to me and showed me what depression was and explained it and how it works in the brain. I was taught coping skills also. We added some new meds and I’ve made so much progress in the last few months. I still have depression and some days are hard. I know who I can call for help and I’m getting help. I know this pandemic is causing a lot of stress. While we are at home and not seeing a lot of people and not going to work it can become depressing.
Please if you are struggling, reach out to someone or feel free to message me. You matter and your voice and feelings matter and are real. You can send someone a text just simply saying hey I need some help. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself you can also call the suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255 you can go check out their web page also for more support.
There are so many more things I can talk about on this. Bottom line is you aren’t weak – nothing is wrong with you. Please reach out to someone if you need help. Taking medicine or seeing a counselor is not a sign of weakness. I’ve seen this quote said a lot about taking care of your mental health and seeing a counselor is just as important as going to the doctor when you have the flu.
I’ll talk on this more next week so be on the lookout next Monday. May is Mental Health Awareness Month so that is what my blog posts will be primarily focused on right now. I’ll be talking more about depression and what I’m doing to help with it.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” – Isaiah 41:13