2015 Mental Health Awareness Month Speech

I would first like to begin by giving a trigger warning. I will be talking about mental health and depression and I realize that this may be triggering for some people. If that is the case, I would advise you to leave for the duration of my speech. Also, please note that the pastors and I will be available to talk about this subject after church (event).

Before I get started, I would like for all of you to imagine your worst day ever. Your alarm didn’t go off, so you barely have time to get ready. You struggle to get the kids ready for school. Your car won’t start and you’re late to work. At work, or if you’re in school maybe someone starts digging at you about a project, they’re making fun of you or yelling at you. You start thinking about all of the things you have to do, at work, at home and everything in-between. Do you remember how that felt? (Ask for opinions from audience.)You felt anger, sad, frustrated, lost, lonely, down, stressed, overwhelmed.  That is essentially how someone suffering from depression feels on a normal day.

How would I know? My name is Talia Malon and I know that I seem like your normal, average 20-something year old. I look healthy, however I am clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I also have avoidant personality disorder tendencies. I have been in therapy for over 4 years and I was only recently discharged from an outpatient treatment program for mental health.  I’m here to talk to you about depression because May is Mental Health Awareness month (mental awareness is important) and I want you to understand mental illnesses. I want you to understand that I wake up fighting a battle everyday whether I am at work, at home or out with friends. Each day may be a battle where I am under siege for every waking hour but I am determined to win this war, because there is only one other alternative.

Depression is defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest…. It affects how you feel, think and believe and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.” While this definition works for the health institutions around the world, I find that there is an easier and more forthright definition. “Mental illnesses are diseases. Depression is a disease.” It is a disease of the mind and it’s not easy to physically see unlike cancer but nonetheless, it is a disease. “This disease affects approximately one in four adults” (NAMI). You can die from it. People have died from depression. The most recently notable, would be Robin Williams. The coroner’s report may say suicide, but honestly he died from depression. “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and more than 90% of those who die by suicide had a mental disorder” (NAMI).

Trying to explain depression is like trying to teach physics to preschoolers; it’s virtually impossible because depression affects everyone differently which makes it so hard to describe. It’s hard to explain the numbness you feel, the uncaring, sadness, frustration, loneliness, worthlessness, etc. But what I can tell you is that depression lies. It’s like a bully, but it is able to reach into the darkest places of your mind and use it against you. .It magnifies every negative thought I’ve ever had about myself.  And it does so continuously. I won’t just ‘get better’ one day. It’s a continuous struggle between me and my brain. My therapist at Linden Oaks calls it a committee. This committee is my depression. It’s sitting in the back of my mind constantly, so I have to be careful because I know that there is something self destructive in me. Martha Manning, clinical psychologist and writer says, “Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern, just the slow erosion of self, as insidious as cancer. And like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience; a room in hell with only your name on the door.”

Mental illnesses are also invisible diseases. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they have these diseases or not. Often times, we make split second decisions about a person without speaking a word to them, without knowing them at all. We don’t know if they are suffering from bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression or any other illnesses or issues, but we have already judged them based on their looks, their behaviors and their actions. I feel that this is an issue, because honestly, people with mental illnesses can’t help the way they think. As an individual with depression, there is something chemically wrong in my brain that affects my thinking and I cannot fix that on my own. As Trisha Goddard, a British actress and TV personality said, “Cancer is 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.” (and she would know, she has suffered from both)

So what can you do? You can be part of a support group for someone with mental illness. You can help them and be there for them. Ask them how they are doing and really mean it. Sometimes there is nothing that will make them feel better. Sometimes there are only  things that will make it worse. You can not ‘fix’ them or cure them of their mental illness anymore than you can cure a person of leukemia. I feel that it is best understood in the words of one of my supporters. “I support Sara fully, no matter what. Even though I have feelings similar to hers, I still have trouble remembering that her thoughts of worst case scenario are not by choice.  I get frustrated talking with her. I get angry sometimes and just want to explode. But I take a moment to remember how I’ve felt and how she must feel; a million times worse. I take solace in knowing that I can be there for her. No matter what. If you know someone with depression, take the time to educate yourself. Listen to them, no matter how frustrating it can be, and give them a shoulder to cry on.  Don’t bother asking them what’s wrong because they probably don’t know. Just let them talk. Be their supporter. You could be the only motivation they have to do anything.”

Coming here to speak to you today is the first small step towards my ultimate goal.  These are the first steps as I try to start a non-profit organization for education, awareness and tolerance on mental illnesses.  I have named this foundation ADAPT; Advocates for Depression Awareness, Progress and Tolerance. I felt that this name was fitting because when you make the decision to be the supporter of somebody suffering from a mental illness, you have to adapt. Depressives also have to adapt as they try to cope with their illness. Both sides have to adapt their viewpoint and adapt how they interact with others.  Educating yourself and becoming an active supporter of someone with a mental illness may save a life.

In closing, I would also like to encourage you to take care of your mental health. It is just as important as your physical health and it can be anything from taking a break from life and going for a walk outside to talking out a troubling situation with a friend to getting therapy for even a couple of sessions. I encourage those with depression to keep holding on. You are not alone and this may be the hardest fight of your life, but it is also one of the most important. We are here for you. Please visit my blog for more information on depression, how you can help and how you can find help. Thank you.

 

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The Word “Should”

While in therapy, we talked about the word ‘should’. Because of this discussion, it is my honest belief that ‘should’ is one of the worst words in the English language. The word should is defined as used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency. I think it’s easier to say that the word should most often is used to place guilt or blame. We say someone should do something because that is our opinion however our opinion, while it might have some weight based on our relationship with that person, can’t be the deciding factor for someone to do something. Instead, should is used to indicate blame or lay guilt if the person doesn’t do what we say they ‘should’.

A good replacement for the word should, is like or want. “I would like you to…” rather than “You should…” By replacing should with like you are stating your opinion rather than placing blame or guilt. I’m not saying that the word be removed from our language entirely because there are some instances when it is appropriate to use. However, when it is used to place guilt or blame, it can hurt or harm another person.

So lately, I have been attempting to remove the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary. It’s proven harder than I thought. In just writing this post, I’ve had to rethink how to word sentences because I would normally use the word ‘should’. But this exercise has taught me that is important to think about what you say before you say it. You never know how what you say may affect another person.

 

What Makes A Hero?

What makes a hero?

Today’s world is permeated with superheroes. Every year, there’s a new movie about Iron Man, Superman, Captain America, etc. And while I enjoy these action movies as much as the next person, lately I’ve been considering; what makes a hero? You have the general trait of saving the world. Most of the superheroes are people who find themselves with powers beyond those of a normal human and they use these powers for the good of humankind. Of course that is all fantasies and comic book. Superheroes can’t exist in real life. Can they?

I choose to believe that there is a superhero inside of each of us. Whether it’s helping a stranger or volunteering. It may be the smallest act but eventually all of those acts add up.

Superheroes aren’t perfect. They make their share of mistakes and often those mistakes are bigger because of who they are. We make mistakes too, but we’re also most often given the chance to fix those mistakes.

Heroes are everywhere in everyday life. They can be the person walking down the street or the coworker down the hall. Mental illness is an invisible disease. The smallest act of kindness can make the biggest difference to anyone who is struggling or having a bad day.

So who do you want to be? Your average, normal person or a superhero? Because they come in every shape and size and you can be a hero.

My Social Environment

I don’t do well in social environments in fact, I downright suck at them. I always feel awkward, like I don’t fit in. I never feel like I’m part of the group, but just hanging on by my fingertips.

Social environments have always been hard for me. I didn’t thrive, socially, in school. I usually had one or two close friends and many acquaintances. I remember times when I would be chasing after the popular group of girls, wanting them to accept me but never being accepted. This hurt, but I never considered it to be my fault. When I was younger, I just accepted it as status quo and I was ok with that. I had friends elsewhere and I never had to worry about having friends to hang out with.

As I grew older and entered high school, I never found my niche. I was involved, with my classes, with choir and theater, but I never quite fit in. It was the same story, feeling like I was on the outside looking in. I was never invited to events unless it was a group thing and while this bugged me every once and awhile, I was too busy for the most part to care. I may not have felt like I fit in but I was involved enough not to care.

College was a disaster for me. Everyone thought I would thrive in a college environment, at this point, I feel like I did everything but thrive. I feel like I crashed and burned. I had many issues with roommates and by the time I left college 3 years in, I hadn’t made any serious friends. In fact, the only thing I had done throughout college was lose friends. As I said, not a good experience for me.

Today, I have 2 friends, one of which is an ex-boyfriend while the other is my current boyfriend. I don’t know what they see that no one else can be I’m grateful that they do. My social environment still sucks. I don’t really get out, but then again I don’t enjoy doing the things normal 20-year-olds do, like drinking every weekend. But I do want to have fun. I want to hang out with people and do things, I just can’t find the people to do things with and I don’t even know how to go about meeting people at this point. I wish I could make friends but my depression makes that nearly impossible, so maybe if I get better, my social environment will change for the better.

My Story Part 8

This is a continuation, part 8, of my daily journal of life after outpatient treatment for depression, and anxiety. Please click for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Part 8, Day 1:

I’ve been so tired lately. I have a feeling this job is starting to take its toll on me. Working overnights and sleeping during the day is harder than I thought it would be. My new puppy has been driving me crazy lately. She won’t listen to me at all! It’s very frustrating and on top of being tired all of the time my patience is at an all time low. I need a break.

Day 6:

I’m nervous about this upcoming vacation/wedding. Things are tense with this side of the family, so it could be an interesting trip. The BF and I are killing two birds with one stone by going camping instead of staying at the hotel. It gives us a little  more room, more privacy, and this way I get to bring the new puppy with. Hopefully there is no bloodshed at the wedding and everyone is on their best behavior

Day 12:

The wedding/camping trip went very well. My cousin (the one who got married) and I had an interesting heart-to-heart and he told me that he only wants me to be happy. Of course, he and I were more than a little drunk when this occurred. I spent most of the reception getting drunk but had a lot of fun. I caught the bouquet, but I’m definitely not the next person getting married. That would be my other cousin. Unfortunately, I can’t go to his wedding because I have to work. I’ll be working 10 days in a row now because of this vacation and my next trip. This could be interesting.

Day 18:

I’m heading to my grandparents’ house this week. They live on a lake and I love it up there. It is so peaceful. Plus, being born a Pisces, I love the water. It’ll be fun spending the ‘weekend’ during the work week with my boyfriend in a place that I love. I am a little worried because sometimes I get cornered and have to discuss (or receive someone’s opinion) about a topic I would rather not talk about, but all in all it should be nice. When we get back, I’m going to help my best friend with his fundraiser and meet his new girlfriend. I’m a little worried about that, but then again, I worry a lot anyway.

Day 23:

The trip was amazing although the weather did not cooperate. We (the BF and I), ended up going to a couple of wineries because the weather was bad. This brings our total to 15 wineries in 3 months!! Good thing it’s something we like to do! We had nicer weather on the last full day before we left. We spent the day on the beach. My puppy wasn’t very happy because I wouldn’t let her out of her crate, but she had just gotten spayed and I didn’t want to risk infection. When we go up in 2 weeks, I’ll let her out and see what she does in the water. I have a feeling she’ll love it as much as I do!

The fundraiser was an interesting day. He ended up not needing my help which made me feel useless and unwanted. Plus, it seemed like I was ignored by everyone there like I was the plague. I felt like a social pariah. I met his new girlfriend and she seems nice, but I don’t think she likes me very much. Of course my BF says ‘you only said two words to her!’ but some things you can just feel. I hope this doesn’t cause problems between me and my best friend!

Please stay tuned for Part 8. Here are the links for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

100th Post

This is my 100th post.

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who reads this blog. While this blog is therapy for me, it is also written to inform and educate others regarding mental illness. Without you, this blog wouldn’t have a purpose.

Secondly, I would like to give some background on where I was when this blog was started versus where I am now. When I first started this blog, I was freshly graduated from outpatient treatment. I was writing not only as therapy, but because I was inspired. I wanted to inform and educate others. I wanted to share my personal experiences and take the stigma away from mental illness. And while there was some rockiness in regards to this blog (my two year absence), I have come so much further. I have learned so much and made great strides in my personal life.

While I should never have stopped writing, it was a necessary break for me. I need the time to separate from the friend who started the blog with me. The friend who walked away.

I hope to continue writing and educating others on this blog as I continue my own journey through depression and anxiety. I hope this blog has helped you and I continue to encourage you in your own journey with mental illness. I know it’s a difficult path, however you can make it through. Know that I am here for you and I am rooting for you just as I hope you are rooting for me.

Please note that for the future, because of time restraints I will be posting only once a week.

The Trouble with Psychiatrists & Doctors

Until my stint in outpatient treatment, I had my fair share of struggles with psychiatrists. I often felt like they weren’t listening to what I was saying. And out of the 3 that I had seen, the 5 different medications they had prescribed hadn’t worked.

With the initial psychiatrists I had seen, I felt ignored. You walked in for a 15 minute session, perhaps a 30 minute initial session and you talk to them. They ask you how you feel, and you give them some background history on your mental illness. At the end of that 15 minutes, they either up your dose, change your medication or tell you to continue taking it. This often frustrated me, because I would be told to continue taking something that I felt wasn’t working.

I’ll admit that a psychiatrist’s job isn’t easy. There are no tests that they can perform to find out exactly what medication you need to take for your illness. It’s all guess work based on what you tell them; trying to figure out which receptors in your brain are working overtime or are not working at all. But it’s still frustrating trying different types of medications and having them not work or getting viciously sick on them because of the way they are interacting with your body.

My previous therapist had heard so many complaints about psychiatrists and medication that she decided to go back to school to become an APN, or nurse practitioner. She felt that because she saw her clients weekly, it would be easier for her to prescribe a medication that would work for them. I think this is admirable because at the age of 50, she is going back to school and getting her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate to become a nurse practitioner.

Now that I’ve finally found a medication that works, I feel better. I’m not so down anymore. I’m glad I followed my doctor’s directives at the outpatient center and I’m glad that I’ve found someone who listens to me.

If you don’t feel like your doctor is listening to you or if a treatment plan isn’t working, speak up. Try and explain to them how you feel or, look for another doctor. You’re allowed to see other doctors. Find a fit that works for you and will provide the best treatment so that you can recover. Be proactive, it’s your health that’s at risk.