Stuck

Sometimes I wonder why I’m writing this blog. Is anyone even reading it? Does anyone care? Is it making a difference?

I face these questions every day while I’m trying to write. As well as these: What should I write about? Will anyone care? And I suppose, even if no one cares, I should write anyway because I know that it helps. Writing helps me deal with my depression and often, putting things down on paper helps get them out of my mind. (Hence this post.) But I’m struggling with the fact that I feel stuck. I’m not sure what to write, even though I have an entire list. I’m not sure what people would like to know.

I’m trying to remember that this blog is the first step to bigger and better things. I’m trying to remember that this blog has a goal. A goal, that if reached could make a difference to millions of people. A goal that could make a difference in the field of mental illness. But sometimes, that goal seems so far away, it might as well be impossible.

I feel stuck in my life, in my therapy and in my head. I know the theories on what I need to do to get better and I’m taking my medication, but there are just days when I feel like they aren’t making a difference. I wake up and there are days when i just wonder why. Why me? Why now? Why this? Why?? And nothing I’ve learned, nothing I’ve tried has helped me on these days. These are the days when I struggle. I struggle just to get to the next day. I struggle with my brain and trying to keep it on the right track. I just struggle and honestly, I’m very sick of struggling so hard and so often.

It’s not fun and it isn’t easy. If I had a choice I wouldn’t be this way, but I don’t have a choice. Having depression isn’t my decision to make. It was made for me by my genetics, psyche, biology and environment. I can’t just ‘get over it’ and I’m not just lazy. I have limitations because of my illness. And right now my brain is telling me that I’m not important, that my ideas aren’t important and that this blog isn’t important. And maybe it’s not but I have to keep trying and I have to keep fighting. There is only one other alternative and I don’t consider that an option.

But I honestly want to know, what do you want to know about depression? What questions do you have regarding mental illness? Please message me or comment below.

Stuck

My Dream

“I have a dream….”1 Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. uttered those words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, they have had a unique meaning. But in all honesty, I do have a dream. I have a dream that mental health will be regarded without stigma and prejudice. I have a dream that one day, people will realize that mental health is important and a mental illness is a disease much like cancer. However, unlike cancer, mental illness does not generally show major physical symptoms. There is no hair loss, no chemo or radiation treatments and a mentally ill person does not look physically sick. But this does not mean that they are not suffering just as much.

I truly believe that depression and mental illness is a disease. It’s like getting a tumor; it’s not your fault. Are you going to turn around and tell a person with a tumor or cancerous growth that it’s their fault for getting that? Would you tell a person with a broken leg to ‘just get over it’? Why would you do the same to a mentally ill person who also is struggling with the question; ‘Why me?’.

My dream is to start a nonprofit foundation to not only help those with mental illness, but to also fight the stigmas and cliches that have permeated the idea of mental illness. Those with depression and anxiety are sick, not lazy, crazy or faking it.

The name for this nonprofit would be ADAPT. Advocates for Depression Awareness, Progress & Tolerance, all of which is needed in the field of mental health. If I can educate or bring awareness to those who don’t understand depression, progress and tolerance will follow.

Martin Luther King Jr’s most famous words were uttered that day. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.1 Today, people are still judged by their looks and actions rather than their character. So let me ask you, how do you want to be judged? Or do you even want to be judged at all?

I have a mental illness; this makes me sick and I can’t just ‘get over it’ and I’m not ‘being lazy’. There are days that I struggle to make through. There are habits and behaviors that I have to change, but this is not a disease that I have to fight alone. Just as people support friends and family with cancer, people also need to support and help those with mental illness.

So my dream, to start a nonprofit; ADAPT, could change the world. I want it to change the world and I want it to change your mind about mental health.

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech “I Have A Dream”

Me Against the World

I often feel like it is me against the world. Mental health is still stigmatized, at least one hundred years after it was first considered a legitimate clinical diagnosis. I feel like people, including my family, look at me and see that I look normal and therefore think that there is no possible way that I could be sick.

I often wish that mental illness was like cancer, where you end up in the hospital or at least you look sick. I consider depression to actually be a cancer, but because you don’t look sick everyone says “you’re fine” and should just “get over it.”

There are times when I feel like crying for absolutely no reason. Or my mood will change at the drop of a hat. One little thing could trigger me, like it did today, and there goes my good or at least, baseline mood and I have to fight to get it back.

Today I walked into work and we have a log book so that each shift can know what major things happened in previous shifts. Unfortunately, this log-book is mostly used to list complaints and to nitpick people’s job performances. I worked my butt off last night, with the hotel being at almost full capacity and I feel like I did the best that I could possibly do. I walk into work today and there is a list of complaints of things that didn’t get done or weren’t done satisfactorily. My mood immediately went south. I was frustrated, I was angry and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. It took me 4 hours to bring me back to baseline. Four hours to come to terms with the fact that they were nitpicking because they wanted to find something wrong. Almost like they had to find something wrong. And now I’m starting to feel sorry for them and I wonder what misery in their lives is causing them to take it out on us at work.

I realize that I make snap judgements about things and emotions. I decide within seconds how I want to feel about something and it takes hours of turning it over in my mind, to change how I feel. I need to learn and I’m trying to learn to take my time to ride the wave of my emotions and not just settle on feeling only one, especially a negative one.

So while I often feel like it’s me against the world, in reality it’s not. I have many people rooting for me to succeed and many people believe in me and believe that I can get better; that I can become a healthier person.

Even in treatment, I feel like i’m struggling to tread water while I’m surrounded by boats of people, all shouting vague suggestions to me, including swim harder. All of these people are shouting suggestions at me rather than trying to help me into the boat. It’s like they’re afraid that helping me might tip their own boat over. But that’s not true. They just don’t understand.

So to that end, I’m writing these posts to promote understanding. Because I want the people in my life to at least partly understand what I’m going through. But I don’t think people understand how stressful it is to explain what’s going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself. But I’m going to keep on trying and struggling to promote awareness, progress and tolerance. There needs to be a change. We need to ADAPT!!!

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month. So I am trying my best to make that awareness known. I am excited to be speaking to three church congregations about my journey and how they can help those with mental illness. I’m also extremely nervous to start public speaking but I’m hoping that these first three speeches will lead to bigger and better things. As Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I guess speaking could be considered a second step, with this blog being the first.

Mental health is a serious matter, whether you suffer from an illness or not. It is always good to care for your mental state and your emotions. Being aware of your feelings and emotions makes you more in tune with yourself.

So in honor of mental health month, I’m going to ask you to wear a green ribbon whether it’s your mental health or in honor of a friend or family member. And when asked about it, explain why you wear that ribbon. There is no shame in mental health. Spread the word!!

May Mental Health Month Slideshow Final_0

“Hey! How are you?”

One of the easiest phrases people use today is, “Hey! How are you?”. But when it comes to this question, they aren’t actually looking for a serious, honest answer. For them it’s a formality, a courtesy to get out of the way before either moving on with the conversation or walking away. For those of us with depression, ‘how are you?’, is a loaded question. Do we answer honestly? Or do we follow formality and courtesy and just say fine, all while hiding how we really feel?

Asking ‘how are you’ is the easiest question, but can actually mean so much to a person if you’re asking it honestly. Maybe you won’t like to hear the answer that they aren’t feeling well, or mentally they are struggling, but they’ll feel so much better being able to tell you the truth instead of hiding how they feel. But there are good and bad ways to ask someone if they are ok.

The first step is to ask the question, “Are you ok?” or “How are you?”. Be honest, and try to get the person to open up. Sometimes they need to talk, but don’t know what to say when confronted with the question, “how are you?”. Continue asking questions about them, and their life. You may have to work a little to earn their trust so that they will open up to you. This may be one of the hardest steps, especially if they don’t know how to respond, but it is also the most important one. It starts a conversation about the person’s mental well-being.

The second step is to listen without judgement. The first sign that the person feels like they are being judged, they will shut down and you have completely lost their trust. Don’t give advice, just listen. Just like you occasionally need to vent to someone about work, life, etc, so do they, especially because they have a disease that makes it difficult for them to be happy or see the good in their life. Also, don’t try to solve their problems. While that might be easier for you, it could be detrimental to their recovery. Depressed people have to face their problems if they’re going to get better. And let them know that you’re there for them whenever they need to talk.

The third step is to encourage action. Ask them what steps they’re taking to get better. Encourage them to see a doctor, psychiatrist, and/or therapist, if they are not already. Ask them if they need help with anything. Don’t let them become fully reliant on you for everything but help them when they’re stuck in a certain situation, environment or dilemma.

The final step is to follow up with them. Depressive people often have a hard time following through with actions that have been put in place. Try to make time for them, not so much that it interferes with your life, but enough so that they know you are thinking about them and hoping that they are taking the right steps to work through their depression.

These steps can be taken face to face, over the phone, over text or even over social media. When you are talking to them, make sure that they are the center of your attention for that moment. Take any threats of suicide seriously and get them to seek help immediately. Think carefully about what you post, or say about that person to others. It will often be seen as a breach of trust and at the very least make that person uncomfortable, especially if they haven’t gone public with their illness.

These steps are good for talking to anyone, not just a depressive or mentally ill person. So next time you say “Hey! How are you?” to someone, be genuinely interested in their answer. You never know how much of a difference that could make.

Facebook Page for R U Ok Day

R U Ok? Organization

Worthlessness

Worthlessness. This is another overwhelming feeling that many people with depression have. You feel insignificant, unloved and unvalued. This feeling is directly related to depression and your self-esteem or self worth. The writing that follows come from a journaling I did on a particularly difficult day during therapy. I wrote this while sitting in group therapy. Nothing specific triggered this feeling.

I feel worthless, like I’m not worth people’s time and attention that my problems don’t matter and aren’t worth talking about.

I don’t feel like my dream is worthwhile or that it will ever get off the ground. I feel like it’s pointless.

I don’t like myself. I don’t even know how to like myself. How can I like myself, when other people don’t even like me? I hate my life. It feels like it’s never going to change. Like things are never going to change and I’m going to be stuck like this forever. Stuck at a dead end job, with no friends, no life, nothing to look forward to. What kind of life is that? Not one that is worth living.

I want to be a priority to someone. I loved the way my one friend treated me when we hung out the other day. He was rubbing my back, putting his arm around me, and pulling me down to cuddle with him. (All of which he didn’t do when we were dating.) I’m not usually a cuddler, but perhaps that has changed. I just wish I had that all of the time. Having someone constantly in my life would be amazing, but I can’t even keep friends in my life. I just want to be cherished, loved, wanted, etc. Everything that I don’t feel now.

I want a husband, family, kids, life, etc. Despite being unconventional, I want the traditional. But I don’t feel like I’m worth it, like I deserve it. And everytime I get rejected, whether by a man or woman, it just confirms that belief. That I’m not worth time, attention, priority. And I feel like I’m never going to have what I want. I don’t have any friends except you. How am I suppose to find someone who would want to be with me? Who would actually want to be with me?

I hate feeling invisible, worthless, like I’m just a problem that no one wants to deal with. I feel like I’m just a problem that everyone wants to pretend doesn’t exist. A problem that is just swept under the rug and forgotten about. No one knows what to do with me. It’s like they just want me to go away and disappear. To not be an issue.

I hate feeling this way, but I don’t know how to fix it. I feel like these coping skills aren’t going to help. I’m trying them but I don’t feel like they’re going to make a difference when I am no longer in this program.

I guess I want things to change immediately. I want to feel different but I don’t. I still feel miserable, depressed, worthless, etc. I feel like that’s never going to change.

I feel like my problems aren’t worth talking about. It seems like the group can’t ever get to me. That my issues aren’t worth talking about and I feel like I can’t get a word in edgewise. I don’t want to interrupt and I feel like I’m just not important. Not worth talking about.

I’m not worth time, attention, priority, friends…. I’m not worth anything.

Worthless

Hopelessness

Hopelessness. That is the overwhelming feeling that affects you when you have depression. The feeling that nothing is ever going to get better. That nothing is going to change.

I know that is not the case. I know things are going to change. I am making steps to change my life, but I still feel hopelessness. I still feel despondent and dejected. I still feel like people do not like me, that they are not ever going to like me and that I am going to be alone for the rest of my life.

I feel that I will never find a job that I like and I will never finish college. I’ve worked at so many different jobs over the years and I’ve tried to finish college, twice. I feel like nothing is working out for me.

With depression, there is a major difference between knowing, feeling and doing. I know that I can do anything I put my mind to, I’ve done it before. But I feel like I’m never going to succeed in life. I know my apartment needs to be cleaned, but I cannot find the motivation to clean it. I know that I am not worthless, but I feel like I am.

The other night, I found out that the job I really wanted had been offered to and accepted by someone else. While talking to a friend, he gave me the advice that instead of speaking in terms of definitives, like I’m never, I should recognize that it is only a feeling. I need to stop reinforcing the idea that ‘I am’ or ‘I am not’ something and need to recognize it is only a feeling. I am not discounting the feeling because it is obviously there for a reason. But it is not a certainty and I need to remember that.

I am sick of feeling the way I do. Sick of being told that I like feeling this way. Sick of being told that I am a negative or pessimistic person. Yes, I view the world with a ‘glass half empty’ mentality, but I think that way for a reason and I can’t help it. Instead of telling me that “I need to get over it” or “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, maybe you should try helping me or gain a better understanding of what I’m going through.

Trisha Goddard, a British actress, has survived both depression and breast cancer. She is quoted as saying, “Cancer’s not the worst thing I’ve faced – that was depression. With depression, nobody brings you flowers, and the doctors can’t operate and tell you you’ll be free of the disease within weeks.”

People can’t see your suffering, so they assume you’re not suffering. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We are all suffering, whether it is work, stress, school, etc. It just affects some of us more than others.

Being Diagnosed

If you think you have depression, the first step you need to take is to make an appointment with your primary care physician.

Before your appointment, you should get an in-depth family history. You should also include any symptoms and behaviors, whether they seem related or not, as well as personal information including stress, life changes and lifestyle habits (exercise, diet, sleep, alcohol & drug use). The doctor will also ask for all medications, vitamins and supplements, both prescribed and over-the-counter, that you are taking. It is usually best to sit down and write out this information before your appointment, to insure that you remember everything.

During your appointment, your doctor will ask a lot of questions. Many of these questions may seem extremely personal, but you need to answer them as honestly as possible. The doctors won’t judge you, they want to make sure you get the help you need. The doctor may do a physical exam to rule out a physical health problem. They may also do lab test including a blood test to check your thyroid. An overactive or underactive thyroid will also present the same symptoms as depression. You might also have to have a psychological evaluation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions anytime you don’t understand anything.

To be diagnosed with depression, you must meet the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment. As previously discussed, major depression is characterized as having more than 5 of the symptoms discussed in a previous post, for over a 2 week period.

If you see your primary care physician, get referrals for a psychiatrist and/or a psychologist. I will go into more detail on the differences between the two in another post.

If you are diagnosed with depression, seek the help that you need. Be your own advocate & realize you are not alone.

Thoughts for the Day 1/19

Today has been an interesting day. This year hasn’t started off well, and there are days when I wonder if things are ever going to get better. Honestly, my year started off with my boss cutting my hours from 40 hours a week to less than 20. The plus side, is that it has given me the push I’ve needed to find a new job. The negative, is that I’m not very optimistic about this job search. I’m worried that I’m not going to get called for interviews, that I’m not going to find a new job and that I’m going to burn through my savings trying to stay independent. All of which leads to today.

I’m only working three days this week, which gives me plenty of time to fill out applications on my job search. The downside is that I’m left with a lot of time at home, alone. I got off work today at noon, having an early shift and my first thought when I was getting off was that I didn’t want to go home. The problem is that I don’t have anywhere else to go. I’m sure it would be very different, if I had someone or even a pet, waiting for me at home; if I was not alone all of the time.

I’m so scared that I’m going to spend my life alone. I’m scared that I’m never going to find that person to be with, to marry. I want a family and I’m scared that’s never going to happen. At this point, I feel like I’m facing an entire lifetime alone, and that’s not something I want to face.

I guess, in a lot of ways, I’m a high functioning depressive. I get up and go to work. I try to get things done in my life. Most of the time, it’s because I have to. I want to be independent. I don’t want to need to rely on anyone, and I’m so scared of losing that independence, that freedom. I’m scared that I’m never going to get my feet back under me after being so severely knocked off them when my depression hit.

I was on track to graduate college with a double major and a minor, a semester early. All of that derailed my junior year. Maybe that is all for the best. I was studying a major I did not want. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I may not be any better off than I was three years ago, but at least I have a better view of what I would like to do with my life.

I might never succeed in my dream, but this blog is the start to it, so at least I’m taking a step in the right direction. I don’t know if things will work out for me, but if I stay scared, if I don’t try, I’ll never succeed. So here is my first step. This blog, no matter how scary it can be to share your innermost thoughts with the world, is my first step to my dream and hopefully, it will lead me to where I want to be. Hopefully, this blog is providing insight, help and hope to those suffering from depression. And hopefully, it’s providing progress, tolerance and awareness to those who have family or friends suffering from depression.

Adapt – Advocates for Depression Awareness, Progress and Tolerance

Become an advocate. Speak out.