May is mental health awareness month. This is my second post on my life with mental illness, depression and anxiety, aka my crazy (click here to read the first post: http://www.chicagonow.com/shes-going-to-make-it-after-all/2014/05/id-like-to-make-an-introduction/ ). Please note: it should go without saying but just because I am comfortable calling my problems “my crazy” doesn’t mean that it’s ok to refer to other peoples mental illnesses as their crazy. When it comes to me though, feel free.
Before I got to know my crazy and learned to separate if from the rest of me, it was a part of me. It’s not some outside voice in my head that whispers mean things to me. It’s not a voice I don’t recognize; it’s not repeating things I heard somewhere else. It is MY voice saying things that I come up with. Me. First person.
When my crazy acts upon my emotions it doesn’t do it as an outside force, it does it from the inside as though acting not so much with my as consent as much me doing these things to myself. It’s difficult to explain unless you have lived it.
Let me tell you a little bit more about my crazy and how I met it.
I can’t honestly tell you when I first sunk into depression. What I know is that by the time I got help I was through “having the blues” as you often hear about on commercials for depression medication, I was into the grays. I no longer felt blue because I lived in a state where everything was so gloomy I accepted feeling like crap and bummed 100% of the time as normal.
During these years I became an Academy Award worthy actress. Because I could no longer remember what real happiness felt like, I just acted like everyone else around me. When they laughed, I laughed. Because I couldn’t remember what sad felt like, I was sad when everyone around me was sad. My actual emotions never changed.
I would crack jokes and go out with friends; I waited tables with a bubbly personality. It was all part of my character. Just acting. It became second nature to me; I slipped into my role with ease. I accepted that this would be my life: gray world, watch, react, play your part, don’t break character, sleep, repeat.
Then one day I couldn’t do it anymore. My roommate had more crazy than I did and for the first time I could remember, I felt like I was sinking. In a sick way it was great. I realized that I was getting worse which meant there also had to be a better!
But there was a problem: the idea of finding a doctor and telling him that a girl like me with good grades, a good family and nothing outwardly wrong thought she was depressed?! It was too much.
Depression is a mean illness. First it makes you feel blue, then gray, all the while sucking the life out of you and telling you that you DESERVE to feel this way. Oxymoronically it also tells you that you shouldn’t feel that way, your life isn’t bad so why would you feel like crap every day? Then it renders you so exhausted and confused that you can’t figure out how to get help even if you wanted to.
Let me see if I can explain this better. My life growing up was great. 2 parents that loved me, and each other. Siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents all of whom loved me. My crazy told me both that because I had such a wonderful home life I was being a baby for feeling bad AND that I deserved to feel bad all the time because there was something inherently wrong with me.
I had three false starts before I finally followed through on getting help. From others with similar crazy I know that three tries is about average. Either my college was trying to make sure their psych students got plenty of training or they knew something other places don’t yet. You couldn’t get anti-depressants without talking to a counselor. So I began a process that changed my life.
Sitting down across from a nice woman with a clipboard I told her about gray, my daily act and how I felt I deserved all of it. She told me I deserved to feel better. She listened, never judged, pushed when I needed pushing, and most of all she helped me learned to separate my crazy from the rest of me. Then, she helped me get the medication I needed to make the separation complete. It was hard and it still is.
I wish I could tell you that was the end of my journey but depression doesn’t go quietly into the night. My crazy might go away for a few years but it always comes back. It came back with vengeance when I was in my 20s and brought along anxiety but that is another story for another time.
For now just watch out for your friends, your family, anyone you love. Are they acting their way through life? Are you? NO ONE deserves to, no matter what you might tell yourself.
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