SADNESS VS THE SICKNESS THAT IS DEPRESSION…
My anxiety was bad, but in the grand scheme of things, for me, it was a roadside stop for lunch on the highway to depression. As horrible as it was, anxiety was just the precursor for what was to come. It was a scary clap of thunder before the full force of the storm. Anxiety attacks led me into health anxiety. Health Anxiety led me into Depression. Depression sucked more than I could ever have imagined.
I don’t exactly remember if it was the end of December or the beginning of January. Things are a bit of a blur. At some point, instead of waking up with the physiological sensation of anxiety, I awoke feeling overwhelmingly sad. Sad to the pit of my stomach. Don’t want to get out of bed type sad. Curled-up in fetal-position under the duvet crying type sad.
At first, I thought the feeling would pass. Perhaps I could talk my way out of it? Maybe talking it through with my wife would help? Nope. My depression was powerful and mean. At this stage, I was not ready to accept that I was depressed. I was sad and this would go away. I was not one of ‘those’ people – the ones who get depressed! I was a happy person who didn’t let himself get stressed about things. Don’t call me depressed!
“The truth is that I was depressed and depression was like a magnet for negative thoughts.”
The truth is that I was depressed and depression was like a magnet for negative thoughts. At first I would awake with just the feeling of intense sadness, no thoughts attached. Everything on paper was great. I had a beautiful, caring wife. My two children were more precious and rewarding than I could have ever dreamed of. My career in teaching was going well. I had a lovely home and lots of hobbies that I enjoyed. I’d grown up with a wonderful family and married into another equally wonderful family in Canada. Why should I feel sad? But the magnet was powerful. It repelled all the good stuff and attracted negativity. Past mistakes were dragged from the depths of long-term memory and brought into the present day, loud and clear. Everything that I’d ever disliked about myself was being screamed back at me in a way that was both convincing and real. I was feeling the most intense misery of my life.
THINGS THAT I BELIEVED WHEN I WAS SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY:
- Something terrible was about to happen.
- Even in the absence of any symptoms, I was ill and going to die.
- I was going to die and it was somehow my own fault.
- I was not hungry and did not need food, because my body did not have long left.
- These were not merely anxiety attacks – they were messages from my own body as it tried to tell me that something was wrong.
- I needed to know what was wrong with – the uncertainty was excruciating.
- Physicians and medical tests are hugely flawed and rarely right when they say you are healthy. However, I would have totally believed them if they told me that I had bubonic plague and was about to die.
- The slightest small twinge in my body meant a severe underlying ailment.
I’ve had Depression. It has recurred several times. The first couple of times, I didn’t know what was happening. The next few times, I didn’t want to admit what was happening. The last time felt like it was going to be the end of me… but it wasn’t.
This last experience was a major turning point. Somehow, I was able to start talking about my mental health and, for some reason, once I had started talking about it, I couldn’t stop. The more I talked, the more I learned about depression and other related mental health issues. I learned how little us humans know about the functioning of our brains and how common it is for us to have problems with its health. I learned that many of my friends and relatives had suffered similar experiences but, for a multitude of reasons, had never told me about them.
My learning lead me to thinking – thinking about how I became embarrassed of mental illness, but not of other ailments. Was this learned during my childhood? If so, how? Why? From whom? If I learned it as a child, then are other children still learning this today? Even worse, are there children experiencing depression and other mental health issues, with no idea of what is happening to them because adults never talk to them about it? Are they hiding their symptoms the way adults often do?
Depression is awful for anyone, but think of a child going through it alone. What can we do? We can start by talking. We are not all ready to do this. Mental health is a deeply personal issue, but for those of us who are able, we have already started to open up about it. Twitter is alive with mental health advocates and people ‘talking’ about their personal experiences. There is an abundance of both anecdotal and scientific information there for the taking… and take it we must. We must take it and use it to educate society both young and old. We must spread the word, learn from each other, and teach children about it. This way, perhaps we can eradicate stigma and ensure that adults and children get the help that they need, when they need it.
Mental illness does not discriminate. It can and does affect anyone. It is the result of sickness, not weakness. I am here to add my voice to the growing number of voices that are already shouting this message loud and clear. I am here to help to teach youth the truth and not stigma. Let’s help future generations to be better prepared. Let’s help our own children so that they can be better than us and act through a lens of caring, not judgement.
I hope that my voice helps.