May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m banding together with a few other bloggers to talk openly about the topic today.
As many of you know, I have been dealing with a lot of physical health issues the last few years, including MS, heart/lung/kidney failure, and cancer. But hand in hand with that, I’ve also been dealing with a lot of mental health issues I haven’t talked about as much.
My first memories of dealing with mental health issues was living my mom. She was bipolar, and sometimes she would be in the best of moods with lots of energy. But there were a lot of times it seemed a switch would flip and she’d be angry and paranoid and hard to deal with.
Often times it felt like she was living within her own world that just happened to coincide with the real world we all share.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Infinitely Polar Bear” with Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana, that movie accurately depicted what my childhood was like. In fact, it was a hard movie for me to watch because I related so much to the kids.
Anyways, having a parent dealing with mental health issues made me hyper-aware of my own mental health. In my 20s, I was prescribed Xanax and Celexa for mild bouts of depression, but they made me feel like a zombie, and I didn’t like the “not-feeling” aspect. I gradually went off them and for about 10-15 years I didn’t take any medication for my depression.
It wasn’t until about 2005 that I really started experiencing severe depression. I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer that year, then I lost my dad to cancer in 2006. In 2007, I lost my last grandparent, my maternal gramma, who’d been my rock all my life.
And my world just crumbled.
Even though I had close friends, I was suddenly without any close family. I felt alone and so devastated.
Then came the MS diagnosis in 2009. Back then, all I knew about it was a lot of people ended up in wheelchairs, unable to control their body. Then in 2010, I had a heart attack, and was also diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.
And then depression hit me full force like an open-palmed wind-up slap in the face.
I stopped caring about life. I was on automatic pilot, going to work and coming home. Then I stopped caring about myself. It didn’t help that I was working two part-time jobs, neither of which gave me insurance. I couldn’t afford to pay for my medicines and doctor visits, so my body started slowly dying.
But I didn’t care. I was rock bottom, waiting for it to end.
In May 2012 I was hospitalized with the heart, lung, and kidney failure. My body just shut down. But somehow, I stayed alive. I also had a lot of time to think, and I decided I would give life another try.
I worked hard to improve my physical health, but I also worked on my mental health. I made hard choices to cut people out of my life who were toxic and contributing to my depression. I learned to meditate and found ways to bolster my moods with positive thoughts and mantras. I also made a conscious effort to do more of the things I loved doing. Things that depression had told me weren’t worthwhile anymore.
Two years ago, while dealing with my cancer, I went back on medication for my depression. My primary doc and I tried several, but finally hit on Bupropion as one that worked.
And for the most part, my depression has been managable since taking the medication again.
That all changed two months ago when my neurologist put me on Aubagio for my MS. It was my first MS medication, and after doing an extensive Google search, I discovered that Aubagio interacts badly with Buproprion. I made the decision to stop taking the depression medication so I could treat my MS.
My battle with depression will be ongoing until the day I die . I will continue to have tough days mixed in with really great days. Depression isn’t always shades of grey…but it is always present.
All I can do is monitor it and utilize my tools, both medicinal and not, to keep it manageable. And most importantly, recognize when I need to ask for help.
That asking for help was a hard thing for me to come to terms with. It’s hard admitting you’re dealing with mental health issues and you need help. Especially when society has all these damning images and negative sterotypes of people with mental health issues. You know what I mean? We feel compelled to keep this sunshiny exterior when inside we may be crumbling, because we worry what people will say.
But there is no shame in doing what you have to do to keep yourself healthy, whether it’s physically, emotionally, or mentally. You have to do what’s best for you.
And to be honest, the things depression tells you are far worse than what somebody else will say to you. Depression lies and it will use every insecurity you have to make you feel useless and like you don’t matter. And when you’re deep in the middle of it, it’s really hard not to listen.
That’s why you need to ask for help when you need it. And you need to realize you are stronger than depression would like you to think you are.
I came across a quote a few years back that I like to hold dear to my heart:
Think of all the things that have tried to hurt you, stop you or kill you, and realize at this moment, your ratio of succeeding and getting past that is 100%.
YOU are still here.
YOU are still fighting.
YOU are worth fighting for.
I tell myself this every day.
I also recently came across an interview with actor Dwayne Johnson about dealing with his own depression years ago. The most memorable part is where he says “you just have to have faith that there is something good on the other side of whatever pain you’re going through right now.”
It’s so true.
How about you? Have you dealt with depression? Has somebody you loved dealt with it? How are you handling it? Let’s talk about it.
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