“Cathy, you don’t have to tell everything you know.”
And yet, sometimes it is appropriate to share as a way to shine a light into the proverbial darkness — especially when it comes to mental illness. We, as humans, are more alike than different. If I let others know that I struggle and still manage to keep on keepin’ on, they might feel they can reach out for help too.
I first experienced depression a few months after my 18th birthday. It was probably not at all coincidental as I had moved to Colorado from southwest Florida about six weeks prior and, while Colorado famously has over 300 days of sun a year, it is located much farther north than what I was used to. A psychiatrist I used to see believed the onset of my ennui was probably due to what is so appropriately called SAD, short for Seasonal Affective Disorder. I consulted with him in the late 1980s after years of trying to tough it out on my own and, in retrospect, self-medicating with alcohol and food.
He prescribed the first of several medications I have taken over the years to address the biochemical imbalance in my brain. One of the things about taking medicine for depression is that there is no perfect pill for everyone. A medication might work wonderfully for one and then all of a sudden cease to do so. Some meds have side effects that are merely annoying to very off putting, possibly leading some to wonder at times if it is worth it. But I have learned over the past 30-plus years of taking antidepressants off and on (mostly on), that my quality of life is better with medication.
I’m very grateful for the therapy and practitioners over the years — as well as having the resources to access these things as I know there is a growing need for access to mental health care for a multitude of reasons. We as a society are failing ourselves if we don’t address access issues.
To that end, I will be participating in a fundraising walk next month for NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) with some of my co-workers. If you’d like to join me, sponsor me or donate directly to NAMI, please feel free to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will get you the information.
In the meantime, as we move into the shorter, colder days of the year, let’s strive to be kind to one another and to ourselves. We never know who we might lift up without ever realizing it.
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