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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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.

My Story: Part 7

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

Part 7, Day 1,:

Vacation was amazing!! I lived in the moment and all of my stress and depression melted away. I felt so good on vacation. Of course, the minute I walked through my door at home, everything came crashing down onto my shoulders. So I guess I need to learn how to live like I’m on vacation. That’s easier said than done.

Day 5:

So I’ve decided to get a dog, or more specifically an emotional support animal. I’ve been putting it off lately, but I’ve finally decided that it’s now or never. I can’t keep waiting forever. I’m looking forward to having an emotional support animal. Hopefully it will help me with my depression.

On the flip side, learning to live like I’m on vacation is not an easy task. I’m struggling with it. I was so happy and living in the moment while on vacation and now that I’m home, everything is getting to me. I feel like I’m upset every other day. I wish my depression would get better. Hopefully a dog will help.

Day 12:

Today was a horrible day. I spent most of the day crying. First, I found out that the third dog that I was interested in was no longer available for adoption. Then, I found out that my best friend had changed his plans, making me feel like he had lied to me. Normally, we get lunch or dinner every Thursday, but today I feel like he is blowing me off. I feel like I’m not important or wanted.

All of which is a little ridiculous, because my boyfriend was hanging out with me today so it should have been a good day. At least he lets me use his shoulder to cry on. He even cried a little because I was so upset and he hates seeing me that way. He can be so cute. Of course, I cried when he left. I hate when he leaves. I know I’ll see him again, but I hate that we only get to see each other twice a week. I wish we could be together more.

Day 15:

It’s hard to stay angry at your best friend when he does nice things for you. I’ve been angry at him ever since I felt like he lied to me. But today, he might have found me a puppy and then he stopped by my work on his way home just to say hi. It was very nice of him and I made sure he knew that I appreciated it. It’s just been a struggle with him having a new girlfriend. I feel forgotten until he suddenly decides to do something to show me that I still exist in his life. I just wish those gestures weren’t so few and far between. That can make it difficult to remember.

Day 18:

I got the puppy!!! I was so nervous that my application was going to get turned down. I went and visited them yesterday, but they didn’t have any of the unadopted puppies in so I was told to come back tomorrow. Boy, was I surprised when she asked me if I wanted to take the puppy home with me that day. I wasn’t ready at all!! I had to ask my mom to puppy-sit so I could go get everything I need for her. I’m sure she’ll be a handful but it’ll be so nice having a dog to come home to. I can’t wait to train her!!!

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

Reprogramming Me: My Issues & My Struggles

According to the doctors, I have ingrained personality traits that are causing my depression. This means that I have learned certain ways of thinking and doing things that are actually part of the problem. This basically means that I have to learn how to reprogram my ways of thinking and my outlook on the world. Here are a couple of things they believe I need to work on:

  1. Mindfulness
    1. I’m not very mindful. I’m constantly reviewing the past or worrying about the future, so I have a very hard time being present. I need to learn to stay in the moment and be mindful, to pay attention to what is going on around me and to what I am doing in the moment.
  2. Quick Fix
    1. I want a quick fix to everything. I don’t want to have to struggle for answers or solutions to problems, I just want them fixed immediately.
  3. Catastrophize
    1. This is one of a couple cognitive distortions that I have. I tend to view situations in the worst possible light and look for the worst possible situation to occur. You can read about Cognitive Distortions here.
  4. Avoidance and Fixations
    1. I tend to avoid situations that I don’t want to deal with and fixate on things I shouldn’t.
  5. Negative outlook and worst case scenario
    1. I tend to have a negative outlook on life and believe that the worst possible scenario will occur.
  6. Expectation for things to go my way, or the way I plan.
    1. I have an expectation for things to go the way I plan and for everything to work out exactly as I specify. This is often not the case, and I can get extremely upset when the plans I have made go awry.
  7. Fixation on connection.
    1. Because of a lack of friendships, I have a fixation on connection. I yearn to connect with people and make friends. Oftentimes this connection causes me more harm because I form connections quickly and often believe I have a close friendship with someone who may only consider me as a passing friend.
  8. I also need to explore why group social settings are so uncomfortable
    1. Despite my need for connection, I have a hard time thriving in a group social setting. I need to explore why this is the case. I yearn for connection, but feel uncomfortable in group settings. Why?

I also have issues with my primary support group (my family) which I have discussed here and problems related to social environment which I will be discussing in a later post.

Some of the ways the doctors and therapists have suggested that I work on these issues is by focusing on and accepting myself. I’m holding onto ideals and an old relationship with myself that is only hurting me now. By focusing on myself, something I’m not very good at, I can form a new relationship and connection with myself that will make me a stronger person, and help me fight depression

All of these problems are works in progress and I will continue to update you on my progress in my journey to mental healthiness.

Family

Family. Almost everyone has a family, whether they want one or not. Family is usually there for you. They stick by you no matter what and often times they get on your nerves with their constant advice. They always have some sort of input on your life whether you want it or not. Families are there for each other and support each other.

So what happens when you are diagnosed with depression and your family has no clue what to do or even what that means? Oftentimes they try their best to help, but sometimes their ‘help’ consists of platitudes, cliches, or questions that don’t help the situation. This can be frustrating at best and at it’s worst, can actually worsen your depression.

Lately, all I’ve been hearing from my family is you need to stop doing this or start doing that. I want to tell them that all I really need is support not advice. You are not living my life nor are you standing in my shoes, you have no idea what I’m going through. Why is it that my two friends are better support than you are? Instead, I get asked when I’m going to go back to school or when am I going to get a better job. I just want to scream at them “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got right now, is that not good enough?”

It’s bad enough that I haven’t been able to succeed at following my own life plan, I don’t need you to force yours on to me. Maybe I won’t complete school. Maybe I’ll never get a college degree, is that such a bad thing? Which is silly because I do want to go back to school and get a degree, I just want everyone to stop asking me these questions, because right now I don’t have the answers. Right now, I’m living day to day, just trying to make it through.

So I’m sure you’re asking yourself, as family, what can I do? Sometimes silent support is the best support. And as tempting as it may seem, giving advice isn’t going to help. Oftentimes, it only makes us feel worse. The best question you can ask is “How are you doing?”, followed by “Is there anything I can do to help you?”. These two questions show your support of the person and allows them to respond in a manner most comfortable for them.

These are the two questions I wish my family would ask me without judgement or criticism. I wish they would stop trying to give me advice, platitudes or asking me questions that I don’t know the answers to. I’m trying my best at the moment, why can’t that be enough?

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My Story: After Outpatient Treatment Part 3

Week 3, Day 1
Yesterday I hung out with the BF. We had fun visiting local downtown areas having lunch and then hitting up the mall. I was looking for a new swimsuit top for the summer. Now, I’m a slightly bigger girl, with a pretty large bust so it can be difficult for me to find tops that fit. So, after visiting the first of the 2 stores we were going to look at, I had a minor meltdown. I knew that anything I was going to find was going to have to be altered and that was if I found something in the first place. My BF dragged me over to some couches where we just sat and talked and cried. Well, I cried but he was so kind and understanding. He sees me in such a different light than I see myself and it’s amazing.

In the end, we didn’t find any swimsuit top that would work, so I decided an old bra and tank top would work for now, but the bonding experience we had was definitely worth the struggle we went through just in looking. I can’t believe I’ve found this amazing guy who is willing to deal with my ups and my downs and it’s amazing that he wants to be with me. I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

PS: Don’t teach BF any more coping skills!!! He knows way too much about rumination, and is consistently reminding me of when I do it already!! 🙂

5/12
I’m heading to vacation this week. I’m so excited to have a couple of days to relax and help my grandparents. I still haven’t found a swimsuit but that’s ok. I’ll just wear a bra and tank top. It’s not very warm out anyway so maybe the extra layers will help. I’m excited to get away from life for even just three days and spend some time out on the water. It always helps me relax and I always feel better afterward.

5/14
I only feel important, like I’m a priority when I’m needed/wanted for help with something. At least within my family, I feel like they only want me around when they need me to do something for them. Otherwise, I just feel like I’m in the way or I get the feeling that they want me to go away. I know that they don’t always like that I’m so open about my depression and my life on this blog but I just never understood hiding things. And I’m hoping that being more open about my struggle will help others with depression and promote understanding to those without it.

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