Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stepping out of the "Crazy" Closet

Most of my friends know that I've had a lifelong battle with depression and anxiety. I don't mean that I get a little sad or that occasionally I don't want to get out of bed. I've never really wanted to get out of bed in the morning, but that's another issue altogether.

Of the two problems, the depression is usually, but not always, worse. Depression is a crippling disease. It is also the sort of disease that isn't taken seriously. Well intentioned friends and family members told me to "snap out of it," "stop feeling sorry for myself", and my personal favorite, "just don't think about it." Anxiety really isn't taken seriously. Everybody worries. Everybody has fears. Not everybody has an anxiety disorder. Those who don't, have trouble understanding what happens to people like me. It is just "crazy."

Therein lies the stigma of having a mental problem. Yes, I know half the commercials on television are cute depictions of how drugs can help. In the real world, people still distrust those with mental illnesses. One of my nephews is quite upfront with his opinion. He refers to me as his Crazy Aunt Gwen.

There are things that can make life better. Drugs help, most of the time, but there is no cure.

What I learned from living with this illness was not to talk about what was going on inside my head. The problem with that approach is that it falls into the same category as not talking about being gay. Unless we talk about it, the stigma, the injustice, and misunderstanding continues. Pretending only makes life harder. Not being able to talk also makes it harder for those who do understand and want to help. I am sure that one of the great frustrations of Sarah's life is not being able to get me to talk when I am in the middle of an attack. I don't know how much of my inability to talk is the illness and how much of it stems from my experiences with therapy.

Some people find therapy helps. Both Sarah and her mother have had good results from therapy. Many of the people I know also believe in therapy. Me, not so much. My experiences on that front have been anything but helpful. In the 70's I had the worst sort of therapist. In the 80's I was misdiagnosed and put on drugs that nearly wrecked my life. My family doctor figured out what was happening and thankfully told me to stop taking those medications. I stayed away from psychiatrist after that, but did try therapy again some years later. It was not pretty.

Nothing about this illness is pretty. I really wish I could "just snap out of it." Wouldn't that be great?

1 comment:

Beloved Parrot said...

You are in excellent company, Gwen.