Depression is one of those strange animals; anxiety is one of those silent beasts; chronic illness is one of those silent killers. Everyone’s story is different. I hope to explore as many different avenues as I can in the post. I am going to open up about the struggles I’ve faced in my own life and attempt to tell the stories of others, trying to do my part in breaking the stigmas faced by those three issues and un-muffle the screams of those who need help.
I’m willing to call my self a nutso, crazy, out of control, if my crazy overly sensitive story helps someone feel not crazy.
It’s intolerable to me that these subjects are treated as simple problems and not difficult hurdles some of us face daily.
H e r e i s a p e r s o n a l e x a m p l e.
I deal with something called misophonia, (click for more information) the fear of sound. As of late more and more people have learned about this disorder, which you’d think that would help create awareness. But honestly it’s caused a lot of people to self-diagnose their pet peeves as misophonia.
It’s not the same.
My fear of sound used to get so intense that I almost always had to be alone. I couldn’t create with deep friendships because I had so many triggers that would cause panic attacks, and sadly most people didn’t understand. I was tired of explaining my battles and getting laughed at, so I stopped socializing. That choice has affected so many things in my life today, created so many insecurities that I fight daily. I couldn’t stand hear people breathing loudly, chewing gum, eating, clicking, scratching…I couldn’t be around people just living their lives normally.
After treatment and daily medications I have gone farther than I ever saw myself getting. I can go out to eat with people, I graduated college by always sitting in the back row so I couldn’t hear all the gum and eating, but I did it. I graduated with honors. I keep pushing myself. Last weekend I went to a 10 O’clock movie and sat in the back row, took an extra dose of medicine, and I made it through a whole movie. I haven’t done that in forever! It’s a simple thing but it meant so much to me.
The last few weeks going to church with a friend I have been able to sit in the front row. Mind you, it is a small mid week service; but to me it’s a huge mile stone that when I feel weak I look back to to remind myself how much a grow daily.
Do you see now how misophonia is different than your pet peeve of people chewing? My body and mind goes through a million waves of emotions in milliseconds. I get mad at the perpetrator, I get mad at myself, I get angry, I get sad, I lash out at others and loathe every inch of myself.
Most people, like me, aren’t asking for everyone to rearrange there life styles. Most times we just want people to understand. Understand I’m not being overly sensitive, I’m not being dramatic.
One of the best things I can say , is don’t try to relate if you’re going to bring my struggle down to your level of understanding .
I won’t pretend to know what divorce is like, death of a parent, or anything else I haven’t personally gone through. I may tell you my story to help you not feel alone, but I won’t minimize your struggle just so I can label it.
M e d i c a t i o n i s n ‘ t f a i l u r e.
Those who know me know my past. They know how often I have tried to live life without medication because I didn’t feel whole or someone convinced me God didn’t want me to live medicated.(that’s a different story in its self)
I started at thirteen with a gallbladder growing gangrene and the doctors not catching it for a really long time. I was so sick, like laying on the couch with an IV sick. But I got better only for two years later to be diagnosed with Crohn’s diseases and possible Ulcerative Colitis. To say I was sick then is an understatement, again the doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong for a long time and I couldn’t eat or drink anything. That put me in the hospital because my heart was acting up from lack of Potassium. Again I got better and went into recession and was doing fine, only to tear my Achilles and some other tendons.Then for the next five or so years had a million MRIs to try and figure out where the debilitating migraines were coming from. Then continue down the road and I am diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, along with passing 7 kidney stones and having twelve cleanings of my kidneys. Then fast forward a year to random incidents of anaphylaxis that we still don’t know the true causes of.
I’ve always struggled with depression, anxiety, and what they think is OCD. (The misophonia developed later and I won’t tell that story because it involves too many other people and the last thing I want is to hurt other people.) As a little girl I would go to bed with crackers in one hand and pennies in the other out of fear of going hungry or being poor. Mind you my family wasn’t ways rich but we had what we needed. I would wake up in drenched sweat thinking someone was canvasing my house to kidnap me. When I was really young I would go so far as to think that a cartoon cat was outside a bathroom window waiting to grab me.
I was that crazy kid that had complete melt downs because I had to wear socks. I realize most kids are like this lol but I was extreme. The ridge in the socks would drill holes in my mind when I was even to young to under stand what was going on.
Throughout those years, 13-21, I was out of and on different types of medication including antidepressants and anxiety. When my physical aliments subsided I thought I could be fine without my antidepressants and anxiety medication. Boy was I wrong.
Shout out to all my friends who stayed by me in those years without medication . You deserve an award.
Now I’m 24 and I’m okay with the medication I have to take, both from my mental and physical aliments. I know now that I am none less a person for taking them. In fact I become a better person on them. When my stomach isn’t hurting I can live my life, when my mind is working properly I can live my life. There is no difference and there isn’t anything wrong with me taking them.
I still have days, days I need to be alone and away from the noises. There are days it takes everything in me to get out of bed. Still days when my loving husband twirls his hair and it makes me cringe and want to scream for no reason, that stuff shouldn’t cause anxiety. Still pushing through days when depression claps so tight around me I feel like I’ll never amount to anything, that I’m useless and nobody cares. But there are days I feel I can conquer the world, that everything will be ok. Those happy days didn’t happen without the help of medication and hard core work on my part.
Next I want to start sharing stories from other people , because I know I’m not the only one , you’re not the only one either ; and everyone views and faces things differently .
First is M’s Story-
I suffered from chronic fatigue, depression, general anxiety disorder, hormonal issues (including mood swings), and sleep disturbances for nearly 20 years. I suffered from major depression and chronic joint pain for the last 7 years of this time period. I have been largely symptom free for 4 months and I am so grateful I cannot even describe it. I do not know why I went through what I went through, but I do know I learned several things.
I have learned that people are much more empathetic to you when you have a disease you can name. When I was as-of-yet undiagnosed, then many people (and most doctors) would assume my symptoms were all in my head or forget that I even had health problems. On one hand it was okay when people forgot because I did not want my symptoms to define me. Sometimes it was frustrating when people forgot or were not understanding of my needs. I would sometimes cancel social engagements at the last minute because I was feeling unwell and friends would act suspicious as though I was making up excuses in order to get out of doing something I didn’t really want to do. I always felt hurt and angry when this happened.
I have learned that many people are not always good at facing negative emotions. If I did talk about my health problems a lot of people would give me lame platitudes, saying, “well, look on the bright side, at least…” or just “at least…” which essentially means the same thing. It happened so much that I picked up the habit myself for a while. They were so desperate to remain positive that they completely invalidated what I was feeling. Some people have mentioned to me that they avoid people with chronic illnesses because they do not know what to say to them. My response is: if you don’t know what to say, just ask! Ask the person who is hurting what you can do or say that is most helpful.
Most of the time the hurting person will just want you to listen .
If someone asked me what I found most helpful, I would say it is helpful to ask me what I am grateful for (and don’t ever tell me what I should be grateful for). Some days I needed encouragement, other days I needed empathy, space, or a distraction because I was sick of talking about my health problems. Sometimes people said the wrong thing, but if I could tell they had good intentions it did not usually bother me much. The only people who really bothered me were the ones who acted superior or scoffing, like I was being dramatic or hysterical. Unless you have proof that someone is not telling you the truth about their physical symptoms, I recommend you give them the benefit of a doubt and believe them.
I have learned that having a good community is truly lifesaving. I don’t know what I would do without my friends and family.
It can be tempting to push people away when you are feeling unwell . I would encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out to others.
Not everyone can be trusted to help carry your pain and y o u w i l l g e t b u r n e d b y p e o p l e, but those who can be trusted are the best resource you could ever imagine.
Next N’s Story-
Everyday is a struggle for me. I wake up and just wish I could go back to sleep and start over again. I never truly feel happy in my life – even though there are many happy things going on in my life. For example, my wedding day. It was an amazing moment – but I was not there. I couldn’t enjoy it because of my depression and anxiety.
My depression took away from one of the most special moments of my life.
I have always felt sad. Even as a small child – I was never truly happy. I would pretend to be happy – but inside I wasn’t. I never knew what was wrong and why I felt the way I did, but I didn’t know any better. As I hit puberty, things got worse – I was NEVER happy and always moody. My family thought it was just because of hormones, and just thought I would age out. I went through an abusive relationship at age 15-17 and lost my best friend Sara due to a tragic car accident in between then, which helped none with what I felt. During that time, I realized – I was suffering from depression. I felt I deserved the abusive relationship, because no one would love a dysfunctional person like me who was never happy.
Once I got out of the relationship, things improved a bit and I got a job and started college. I met my boyfriend (who eventually became my sweet husband). He really helped me overcome some of my issues. He worked with me in trying to love myself for me. During college, I had a mental breakdown and removed everyone from my life, I locked myself in my room every day/night, – lost a lot of weight and almost dropped out of college. I had reached my breaking point with stress, relationship issues and family issues. I somehow found an amazing friend in college, who became my savior. She was what I needed to help me realize I wasn’t a terrible person I thought I was. She brought me back to life. After my breakdown, things got really good. I finished school – got a job with my degree, and then got engaged. Until, I had another relapse. I lost myself and almost lost my fiance because I pushed him and everyone else away. I decided I needed to get help.
I went to my doctor and was diagnosed with severe depression. I told the doctor that it has gotten to the point where I cannot let it affect my relationships and job, because they are so important to me and it is just not an option anymore. I was prescribed medicine, and it helped, but I eventually stopped taking it because I just felt numb to the world after some time. I began to research and taught myself coping mechanisms to help me get out of a funk before it gets to be too much. My husband has been amazing through this journey with me and he amazes me everyday. His love continues to grow and he encourages me everyday. I also got a dog, Tina. She has brought me so much joy and she shows me unconditional love. Even with all of this – I still wake up with that feeling of being sad and wishing I did not wake up, and I hate it. I hate not being able to embrace this wonderful life I have been given because my brain just cannot get it together. It is a daily struggle, but I have made it my goal to not let depression ruin my life or get the best of me.
I have had so many other things in my life that I did that was self-destructing behavior due to my depression because I was trying to self-medicate – but that is for another day. I just hope that this lets others know they are not alone.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings. Don’t feel like you are a monster because you are having bad thoughts or feel like you suck. It isn’t your fault.
I don’t want to end this blog without saying a few things, yes sometimes people can abuse medication, yes some people self diagnose themselves.
“Depression is the most common type of mental illness, affecting more than 26% of the U.S. adult population. It has been estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease.”
-Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2005;62:617–627.
-Murray CJL, Lopez AD. The Global Burden of Disease: A Comprehensive Assessment of Mortality and Disability from Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors in 1990 and Projected to 2020. Geneva, Switzerland;World Health Organization, 1996.
With statistics like these staring us in the face we need to figure out what were facing and how to fix it. Some people say we just over diagnose these things now, some say that more people know about mental illness now so it is reported more often. In the words of Rhett Butler “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a
I JUST don’t care, I just want people to know that they’re not alone, there is help up out there!
Samaritans 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (212) 673-3000
1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline