Friday, May 23, 2014

Invisible Illness: Depression

by Emily King

Moving right along on this whole, “all the things you didn’t know were wrong with JoAnne” track… let’s talk about depression.

In case you missed it, I have anxiety and panic (I actually wrote two posts about it, both of which posted on May 21st if you’re interested in seeing them). The depression is all mixed in with that. It is, actually, pretty hard sometimes to tell which issue is which.  A lot of my illnesses are like that. It’s all sort of a strange and interrelated mess. Anxiety, panic, and depression are all related to each other and they may be related to my endocrine illness and my other random health weirdness as well. I have no way of knowing what the cause of any one of them is. I have no way of knowing if there is a single cause. It’s also impossible to tell if they are the result of asymmetries in my brainwave patterns, the cause of those asymmetries, or both. In short, it’s all wibbly wobbly.

Writing these past few posts has been one of the harder things I have had to do in a long time. Focusing on all of these things, even though I am mostly through and beyond them, has been hard. It’s stressful, it is very stressful.

So why do it? Well, I’m doing it because there are a lot of people out there struggling with similar things. Most of them don’t talk about it. Most people won’t tell you that there have been times in their lives where things were so out of whack that they would harm themselves. Most people won’t tell you that there are time periods where they find themselves crying on their bathroom floor. Most people won’t tell you that they have lost interest in things, or lost the ability to taste food. Most people won’t tell you that they have woken up one day and realized that they weren’t themselves anymore and they don’t know how to get back to the person that they were. Most people won’t tell you, so I will. I have dealt with all of those things at one point or another in my life. I have lain on my floor and fought with myself to get up to go to a class, and I have failed at getting up more than once.

I have listened to ignorant people talk about weakness. I have listened to them do it in my own home. I have heard people talk about me behind my back, and I have heard the thinly veiled accusations to my face… and it never fails to amaze me that someone who is talking about my supposed weakness never has the actual guts to look me in the eye and say it directly. No, instead they say something vague and then dance around like a ballerina when they are called out on it. There are so many people who seem to want to talk smack about shit they don’t understand – but their ignorance still never fails to amaze me.

Here are the facts. Depression is a real, serious illness. It can be the result of many different things – traumatic brain injury, traumatic events, various neurochemical imbalances and/or damaged receptors, endocrine issues, hormonal imbalances, tumors, etc. All of the causes are legitimate. All of the causes are “real”. All of the causes have some sort of physical component.

by Emily Kubley
People may tell you something like “depression is all in your head”. If you stop for a second and think about that, though, you’ll realize how truly idiotic a thing that is to say. First of all, depression may NOT be all in your head – some of the symptoms involved have components throughout your whole body. Then again, maybe it is all in your head – maybe you have a traumatic brain injury or a tumor or damaged receptors or any number of other issues. I just don’t understand why anyone would think that something being “all in your head” makes it less legitimate. Someone could say the same sort of thing about my asthma, too – “Oh JoAnne, that’s all in your lungs.” So suddenly it doesn’t matter? That’s stupid. Any way you try to justify it, that is stupid. It’s just as stupid to say something is all in someone’s head.

There seems to be a thought that having one sort of illness makes you weaker than the rest of the population and, somehow, less valid of a person. Why? Why is having depression or anxiety or panic less “real” than cancer? There is a genetic component to both. There are a myriad of potential causes for both. There are severe and painful potential symptoms for both, and ignoring either could kill you. I’m not just talking about the potential for suicide, either – though that should be enough – I’m talking about the physical damage caused by the long-term effects of untreated depression. You know all of the illnesses associated with long-term, unchecked stress? Well, untreated depression causes severe stress. Chronic pain, digestive disorders, headaches, heart problems, skin problems, and the ability to fight off infections or recover from illness have all been linked to stress and, again, depression and stress go hand in hand.

Depression is real – and a lot of people suffer from it. Then again, a lot of people who have been diagnosed with depression DON’T suffer from it anymore. They don’t suffer because they have gotten help. They are being cared for. They are caring for themselves. They are not the problem. I am not the problem. The problem is all of the people walking around not getting help because they are the same people who have always called me “weak”. Maybe the fact that I openly admit that I have an illness does make me weak (in some sort of surreal crazy town), but at least I’m not too big of a coward to admit that I am sick.

Here’s the truth… other than being irritated by people who chose to be rude and/or ignorant (an irritation I will probably never escape), I am fine. Yes, I take medication. Yes, I see a specialist for my illness. I, in fact, do the same sorts of things that anyone else properly managing a chronic illness does… and it helps me so that I feel fine. Good even. And if you’re going through something similar, you can too. There is help, and if you are brave enough, you can get it.

by Emily Kubley
As for those of you who DON’T have to deal with this particular illness – count your blessings. Count your blessings that you don’t have to figure out how you would handle such an issue, or where you would find the strength to push yourself up off the floor to go about your day when the weight on your chest feels like you are pinned under a boulder. Be happy that you feel like yourself. Be happy that you are happy. Understand that you are lucky, and, please, don’t join in the spreading of gossip and lies about those of us who aren’t quite as lucky as you. Our illness is real, and it is as legitimate as any other illness, so don’t buy into the stigma – fight it.

Be kind.

That should, finally, do it for my invisible illness posts. I might someday tell you all about my asthma… but that’s not really invisible. Even if it were, it would be impossible to hide the sound of a cascading cough. J I am very glad to be done with these posts, but I hope that they have helped at least some of you – even if it’s just helpful to know that other people have these illnesses and struggles too. You’re not alone, none of us are.

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