The realities of living with depression

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve recently been (and still am) in a bad place. I can give you a lot of metaphors about depression, but it comes down to this: my brain doesn’t work the way someone without depression’s does. Sometimes it just … sputters to a stop.

I get a lot of praise for being able to “handle” my depression without medication. The thing is … that’s just the way my particular brain chemistry works. Every time someone praises me for not using meds, someone else goes without because they see it as a weakness. If you praise me, you have to praise everyone else that does what they need to do to live healthily. Sometimes, that means medication, sometimes not. But if praise is to be given, it needs to be given to everyone that’s learned how to deal with the brain chemistry they have.

Last week, I sent out a private call for help. It had gotten to the point where controlling it the way I do wasn’t working anymore, and I needed someone else to talk me out of the black box I was trapped in. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had finally dropped the ball on something that was very important to me. The thing is, I wasn’t. I had a flare-up. Something changed, and I changed my strategy.

I think it’s important to realize that anyone dealing with any disability goes through strategic changes in how they have to manage their care. That’s why we get frequent checkups. (And if only there were frequent brain checkups!) Things change. My needing to get care doesn’t mean I’m suddenly “sick,” it means I have to adjust my care for a bit. And people who need medication aren’t “more sick,” they need different care.

Normally, I wouldn’t say anything. In many ways, I’m not sure what I’m saying now. But with all the talk around depression this last year, I want to see mental health care destigmatized. I want to be able to say “I’m seeing a therapist for a bit,” and have people understand that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly suicidal, it means I’m pursuing appropriate care for something I have little control over. I want people to be able to say “I’m taking meds,” and have people understand that means they’re taking care of themselves. I want to be able to openly say “I have an appointment with my therapist today” the same way I say “I have an appointment with my dentist.”

I want you to understand that depression doesn’t always look like depression. That just because I’m dressed up and going to work doesn’t mean I’m suddenly “okay.” I want you to understand that the only way someone will be willing to talk to you about this is if you have shown a pattern of being trustworthy about mental health discussions. I want you to understand that not taking medication for mental health isn’t noble; it’s simply sometimes the correct treatment. I want you to understand that going to a therapist isn’t a weakness any more than going to a doctor is.

I want me to understand all that, too.