Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The things we don't talk about.

I find it frustrating, unhelpful, and unfair that there are so many things that we don't like to talk about. Or if we do it's in hushed tones and as though we are ashamed to be having the conversation. Certainly there are some who talk about them loudly and openly and productively, but not many, and they are often hard to find.

Depression is one of those things. Even though a high percentage of Americans are diagnosed, and even more are suffering undiagnosed, with it we don't talk about it. Give them a pill and let's be on our way is often the attitude, along side the brush offs of "Everyone gets sad." or "If you just tried you'd get over it." and any number of other things.

I don't often talk about myself and the personal stuff going on in my life here for two reasons. One, I am depressed and I don't want to sound as though I'm whining. It's a fine line between reason and excuse, and I often feel as though all I'm giving are excuses for my behavior. I have a LiveJournal that I have recently returned to updating regularly with this sort of thing. Feel free to look me up if you can find me.

Reason two! I don't know who, exactly, reads this. I don't know what friends and family I have that might be following me surreptitiously on here, and while I'm an open book to just about everyone, I'm not so much to my family. So even though my LJ is public, I'm not quite ready to go all in over here and blast my personal business on the interwebs.

However, this is something I want to talk about, because no one does. (Remember, this blog isn't ONLY about geeky things. It's also about me.)

I've been diagnosed with depression since I was fairly young, also ADHD. Halfway through college I stopped taking meds and convinced myself I was fine for many years. Only recently have I realized that no, I'm really not fine, and that I do need medication and therapy. It's been long and painful getting to this realization and acceptance of myself and my wonky brain chemistry, but here I am, and here I shall stay.

Depression is a hard thing to deal with. It's hard on the person who has been diagnosed, and it's hard on the people around them. I often find it difficult to do some of the most basic things for myself. Showering, cooking, cleaning, not to mention I have a child and a husband that need me. The guilt of not being able to do take care of myself and them is killer, and it feeds into the depression and general feeling of worthlessness. It's a self repeating cycle and it is SO hard to break out of. At some point it becomes familiar and comforting, it's easy to keep feeling the same things over and over.

It also affects work performance in ways that you might not expect. I'm a designer, at least it's what I went to school for, what I so desperately want to do with my life, what I'm trying to do with my life, but I haven't been able to. Recently I've received several projects that I'm incredibly excited about, but I find it difficult to work on them and complete them in a fast and efficient manner. How can I work when I can barely pull myself out of bed? I also fill in temporary office and call center positions and watched as the people around me get hired full time, but I don't. Why? Because I often exude a demeanor that screams "I don't care about this job! I don't want to work here!" Do I ever, really, like the jobs? No. Do the people around me? Likely not. However, the difference is that they are able to push through and do the things they need to do to get a full time job. I, on the otherhand, can't seem to focus enough to be as effective as I know I could be. So my attempts at getting a full time job to fill in until I get my graphic design career going fail.

I don't think I fully realized how much the depression was affecting me until recently. Oh, sure, within the last couple years I acknowledged that I could certainly use some good therapy sessions, but I didn't accept that I might actually need medication. I was afraid of it. My experience with it growing up was less than pleasant and I resented everything about it. Sometimes I still do. I trained myself to forget to take it, which is why when I got to college it became completely ineffective and I suffered withdrawal symptoms constantly.

I don't know what changed, but over the last month or two I've realized and accepted that I cannot function. I often can't do basic things, and that I'm not just lazy. That it's not just a matter of changing my habits, but it's also an actual problem. I think the trigger for my realization came in the form of mild panic attacks and anxiety. I suspect I may have a mild anxiety disorder as well as ADD, but I'm not sure. All I can say is standing in the middle of the kitchen with nothing but an overwhelming sense of impending doom and being convinced that the world is going to fall apart if everything doesn't get done RIGHT NOW is a sobering experience.

Depression is not something that can be defined by a specific set of behavior. It's not something people can really understand or relate to unless they've dealt with it themselves. It's not a broken arm or a seizure. It's not an addiction, though addiction and depression often go hand in hand. It's not the sort of thing that people really talk about. Instead they brush it off claiming laziness and bad habits and if the person would just put a little more effort into things they'd be fine. However, it NEEDS to be talked about. There needs to be open discussion about it, not just on the blogosphere, not just on forums and websites, but in our homes and communities. Everyone knows the word, everyone knows theoretically what it is, but there is little community support for those who have to deal with it.

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