Here's the thing. I've had low grade depression (aka dysthymia) for probably the last 11 years. It's only been diagnosed and treated with medication and semi-regular therapy for the past 2.
I talk a really good game about acceptance of mental illness, supporting people getting help, etc. I tell people about it, and about the eating disorder I had in HS that I feel was a symptom of it. I want to go into Music Therapy to help people through mental illnesses (among other things). I like to look at my past through rose colored glasses and say that the things I went through in HS and college made me who I am today and that's a good thing. Depression was a learning experience. I rail against stigmas against mental illnesses.
But the real truth is, when I look at my own depression, I mirror all the "ridiculous stigmas" right back to myself. I don't really have depression, I'm just weak. I shouldn't need a pill to be able to deal with my life - what's so difficult about it? I don't want outside chemicals controlling my body. When I'm on ADs I feel fine, so do I really need it? I'll talk about my depression to friends or people my own age, but no one in my extended family has a clue because I don't want them to think I'm weak or crazy.
Guess what though - I'm realizing that's not my voice. That's my dad's voice. He thinks mental illnesses are BS. Nonexistent, fake problems. Furthermore, he thinks doctors and medicine is a waste of time. Sound familiar?
No one who has been close to me for 5 years or more will argue that I'm not a different person than I was before medication, not even my dad. I know without a doubt that I'm a different person on medication. After being on ADs for about 6 months I looked back at pictures of myself as a little kid and could finally feel and remember what it actually felt like to be that happy, carefree, pre-puberty person.
I love the days and lately weeks where I don't have to think about my depression. It's so easy to forget about it - forget what it feels like to be sinking into an emotional hole that you can't see the way out of. It's deceptively easy to start to think maybe it was all a bad dream. Maybe you don't have depression, not really. You were just having a hard year (or 10). Things are better now and so you don't need therapy. Maybe you only need half your medication every day. Maybe you don't need any!
I do this every few months, and it always has the same results. I know it's exhausting for the few people who are close to me and honestly, I'm exhausting myself too. It's tiring to convince yourself of something you know really isn't true and then try to mentally backtrack when you start to slowly fall apart again. This time I'll call the doctor. I'll remember my medicine every day. I'll refill my prescription on time. I'll find a new therapist or go back to therapy. I promise. And so I'll do one or two semi-positive things and vow to do more "tomorrow", which will improve my mood, which will start the cycle all over again. This time I went to a new city in a new state, thinking I could outrun my depression. But now I'm just here with a lot more stress and a very small support system, none of them professionally trained to give me advice or medication.
Here's the truth, in black and white on my computer screen. Typed by my own hands:
I have depression. I might have depression for the rest of my life. If I forget about it it will creep back up again. It always does. I don't like it. I don't like accepting it, or accepting that it's probably going to be a part of me for the rest of my life.
My depression sucks, end of story. It's not some magical faraway looking glass that makes me more empathetic. It's not some glamorous political statement of how the media or families or life in general can screw someone up. It's a big, dark hole that I'm always standing on the edge of. It's soul-crushing exhaustion, lethargy, apathy. It's complete lack of faith that I have anything worthwhile to offer the world, that I just mess things up or am someone people have to "deal with."
I have a list of doctors I can call in the area who accept my insurance and can give me a new prescription and a referral to a therapist. My depression wants me to feel proud that I set up a list but then leave things like that, not make the calls, not do the real legwork. It wants me to hide behind being scared, being embarrassed, denying my illness, not wanting "pills to control my body." Because my depression wants to control my body, my mind, my life. I'm really hoping that this time I have the strength to stand up to it and do what I have to do to be healthy.