"Have you tried...you know...not having the flu?"

Since I have opened up about my depression, mania, bipolar disorder, feeling worthless from time to time, having a chemical imbalance in my brain… people around me have very slowly started to peek out from behind their own curtains and make eye contact with me.  Some have waved me over and whispered, “I’m depressed, too.”  Some have told me they’re proud of me. 

Others have pretended like I don’t exist anymore, but I realize it’s probably because they are embarrassed or just don’t know what to say to me.  I’m okay with that.  Perhaps a seed has been planted.

Here is what I have learned in the last 3 years about my mental health:

1.  Food is an important component.  It can help or it can hurt any condition, including our moods. 

My magic formula consists of coffee, greens and cruciferous vegetables, lots of good fats, protein, dark chocolate, and water. 

2.  It can scare people when I talk openly about mental health.  It was taboo to discuss things like depression a few decades ago and that stigma lingers. 

When a disease is carried through generations and everyone pretends it isn’t there, ignoring it feeds the idea that people should hide in shame with their imperfections.  The “suffer in silence” mindset doesn’t work for me.  That brings me to #3.

3.  I can put on a happy face and pretend like I am not closely monitoring my medications, diet and environment to strike a healthy balance for myself, but it won’t last. 

If I don't share with others that I use Western medicine, meditation, counseling, literature, writing, walking, and essential oils as therapy, it feels like I’m lying to myself and dishonoring my true nature.  If I'm okay being me, others might wake up to the idea that it's okay to be them.

It maybe a novel idea that some people have to work harder than others to keep their brains healthy, but it's still there.  Ignoring it doesn't make it go away.  Heaping on shame, making them feel like it's their fault, and relegating them to solitude won't help them or the next generation.  

Education and Empathy will help.

For people who don’t understand depression, this neat little graphic has been circulating for a while.  It's funny, but also true:

Seth Adam Smith's work is inspiring.  He "writes fearlessly", shares his process for writing and getting published, and documents his challenge with "the black dog" of depression (as Winston Churchill put it).

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