Monday, January 9, 2012

Depression -- The Hidden Disease

The beginning of each new year always seems to be a time of reflection, contemplation, and renewal.

In the past year I've been more personal on this blog than I have since I started writing in 2007. I've talked about food addition & my struggles with jealousy, dealing with alcoholism in my family, my struggles with accepting my body & being overweight, admitting that I often eat through my feelingsadmitted how it took me over two years to give up gluten completely...

But one thing I haven't shared quite as much about is that I struggle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis.  I've dealt with severe anxiety as long as I can remember. I remember dreading tests in school as young as 5 years old.... as an adult I struggle with things like weekly meetings at work. I dread them. I know nothing will happen to me... but I struggle with the thoughts that I may not know something I should, that I will be called out, that I will get reprimanded for something I'm not doing correctly. Often these negative thoughts swirl around me throughout the day. When that happens depression can set in.

I've always been introverted. I become overwhelmed easily. I am the one to stand against the wall and watch the party taking place instead of joining in. It takes nearly all of my energy just to be in the room and process everything that's going on. It's not that I'm rude, excruciatingly shy, or a snob... I just don't function well in that type of setting. I express myself best through writing and re-writing. It takes me a long time to discover why certain feelings arise (anger, frustration, sadness, even joy, etc...) and then why I feel them.

 And this year, as with all years has been a challenge. I've delved into those thoughts and feelings, shared them openly. Worked with a life coach to learn how to make goals, to learn how to prepare myself for stressful situations, and to accept myself exactly where I am.

My co-worker and dear friend Jennifer wrote a post this morning sharing about her own journey through depression and anxiety and she shared a few paragraphs of a recent post by Jenny of The Bloggess.
” When cancer sufferers fight, recover, and go into remission we laud their bravery.  We call them survivors.  Because they are.
When depression sufferers fight, recover and go into remission we seldom even know, simply because so many suffer in the dark…ashamed to admit something they see as a personal weakness…afraid that people will worry, and more afraid that they won’t.  We find ourselves unable to do anything but cling to the couch and force ourselves to breathe.
When you come out of the grips of a depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate.  Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive.  We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker…but as survivors.  Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it.  Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand.”  Read More.
Jenny's post spoke volumes to me. I applaud her for her honestly. Depression, anxiety... they are silent diseases. They affect more people than you know. I hope you'll read her post.

I'm thankful I had a doctor several years ago who was able to convince me that admitting and taking medication for my depression and anxiety would not make me a bad person. It would help me to function in life instead of constantly being afraid. Even though the stigma of mental diseases and disorders is not as prevalent as it once was... it's still there. We still judge. We assume that people who are "depressed" are simply too weak to deal with their problems. And these thoughts are just not true. These disorders are real, they are serious, and they are treatable. 

To learn more about depression and anxiety please visit: The Anxiety Disorders Association of America and the Anxiety and Panic Disorders Help Center at WebMD.

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