Nobody Wants to be a crappy person

A person wrote to me recently asking what depression looks like for me. He said things that have come out of my own mouth before. He was discouraged and needed guidance, but insisted that talk therapy and drugs were not for him. 

This was my reply:

I can much.  The mind fog, paranoia, very short temper, seeing all that happening and feeling guilty about it - those are my worst enemies.

I would be scared too if I had to make a major life decision like that. It's part of your identity. It's directly tied to your feelings of success as a parent and a husband. That's huge. It sounds like you have a really good sense of what's going on with you. You want to be whole and genuinely happy. 

So what are you willing to do for it?

As for the fear of diagnosis, therapy, and medication, that is probably something I need to write about publicly. After all these years of educating my loved ones about my bipolar disorder, especially the depression, two people close to me said recently they don't want to rely on drugs to be happy and they see it as a weakness. 

First, nobody wants to feel "broken." But what we WANT is irrelevant in this case. We must set aside our vision of ourselves to look at who we really are.

Second, meds and therapy aren't the only two options, and trying them doesn't make you less of a person. Therapy made me angry at first. It helped, but I couldn't have seen that at the time. I have "maintenance appointments" with my therapist now about once every 6 months and they are fabulous. 

Some drugs have been useless or counterproductive for me. The one I'm on now is keeping me alive. I was suicidal off and on for a few years and trying to hide it (because I thought it was a shameful weakness.) I will probably need to take it for the rest of my life. It raises me to a level where my head is above water.

I am still me, but the feeling of worthlessness, temper, confusion, etc. don't eat up 80% of my day anymore. In fact, it makes me stronger and more "me".

Finally, exercise is an essential part of my regimen, too.  Any kind of activity will do. It helps me almost as much as medication.*
It has been worth facing those fears, and every trial, and every bit of setting my pride aside to get where I am now.


For those who still consider mental illness a weakness rather than a disease, I ask:

Who is stronger?

A person who stares down her fears and tries something new anyway?

Or the person who remains still, takes no risks, and is trapped in a prison of self-loathing?

*  "We think exercise combats depression by enhancing endorphins: natural chemicals that act like morphine and other painkillers. There's also a theory that aerobic activity boost norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood. And like antidepressants, exercise helps the brain grow new neurons."               -The Atlantic

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