Sunday, February 3, 2013

Into the Darkness

I would like to start this post with a simple admission: I suffer from depression.

For many folks, depression seems like a scary or taboo subject. That’s understandable, because it’s hard to watch a full grown person, who looks perfectly fine on the outside, suddenly, and for no apparent reason, completely lose it by becoming emotionally hysterical, emotionally or physically lethargic, or even, in some cases, emotionally or physically aggressive.

I sometimes think it would be easier if those who suffer from depression had physical marks to show: a scrape for every night’s sleep lost due to depression induced insomnia, a bruise for every morning woken in a funk, a black eye for every time they thought of hurting themselves, or a substantial broken limb for every time they thought about suicide. People would stop asking silly, idiotic questions like, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” They would just look and know.

Depression is a disease. Essentially, chemicals in the brain, specifically serotonin and dopamine, which usually tell a person “you’re okay, keep eating, keep sleeping, keep moving, keep going, we’re gonna make it” become imbalanced or turn up in very short supply. Everyone experiences emotional highs and lows based on life circumstances and events, but not everyone feels like those highs and lows are going to kill them, or worse, make them feel like they want to kill themselves.

See the distinction?

There are a lot of types of depression, with known and unknown causes, and there are even more proposed treatments for it, some of them more likely to work than others. There’s exercise, activity, diet, time spent under the sun or a UV heat lamp (for those that suffer from seasonal types of depression), one-on-one counseling or therapy, and lastly, chemical treatment, AKA drugs.

Now, there is much disputation over the subject of mental health drugs, and, admittedly, there are a lot of overmedicated people out there looking for a magic pill to them help whisk away their mundane and boring existences. However, I’m much more concerned about those who refuse this option because they’re afraid of the stigma attached to it. Why am I concerned? Because I used to be one of them, and I suffered for years, because I was too afraid to admit I could no longer talk myself out of my funk and no amount of discussion, love, reinforcement, or validation from others could either. For me, fighting depression without drugs was the equivalent of going into the ring with my hands tied behind my back. I was getting my ass kicked, and I couldn’t figure out why.

It seems ironic to me if a person suffers from diabetes, another chemical deficiency, there is no question whatever about giving the person insulin, a hormonal chemical, to help maintain control over it. However, some people talk about mental health drugs like they’re discussing meth or crack. They argue: “A person could become dependent. They might not be able to function without the chemicals.”

Well, duh. Of course not! Their brain isn’t making them!

Absurd arguments over drug treatment options aside, there are few things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt: Depression is real. Depression is scary, horrible, and debilitating. And depression can kill you. Without the help of family like Lindsay, Jaime, Sarah, and my Dad, and an understanding friend/experienced mental health professional, Lynn, I would be dead.

In closing, if you or anyone you know suffers from depression and they need a listening ear, send them my way (longwayround245 Gmail). No one should have to go through this alone.