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Thank you, meds!

A list of things that have changed since I got on a medication that was right for me:

  • My sleep schedule is regularized and so much healthier.  I go to bed and wake up almost the same time every day without developing high levels of anxiety at bedtime or being pinned to my bed in the morning by the futile weight of depression.
  • The feeling of anticipation has returned.  Weird as it may seem, anticipation is a big indicator for me of my mental health.  When I’m depressed, everything on my list of events carries a similar bland, uninspiring flavor.  Whether I needed to get to a boring lecture or I had planned on attending a Christmas party, my plans had the same lack of drive.  Now, that sense of looking forward to something brings the impulse of excitement that most people would never expect could disappear.
  • I can drive without having an anxiety attack, which is huge for me considering I had previously never been able to do enough practice driving to get my license.
  • I developed my first celebrity crush–it may seem silly or unrelated, but realizing it hadn’t happened before suddenly showed me how my mind really hasn’t been functioning properly for years.  I had started to believe the fun, fluttery, crush-y feelings of my very early adolescence were imaginary since they had been gone so long.  (Before you ask… Matthew Gray Gubler’s character on Criminal Minds.)
  • I’m not constantly battling intrusive and frightening thoughts, including suicidal ideation.  It should never be normal to be forced to maintain an ongoing battle with your own mind in order to stay afloat and function, but for a while, it was my “normal.”
  • I’ve recognized that some people who were in my life were toxic and emotionally abusive.  Being mentally in a better place showed me that I did not deserve or warrant their treatment, and that it was okay to cut them out of my life.
  • I have the energy and motivation to take other steps for promoting my health.  For example, I’ve started learning martial arts and work out twice a week.  The exercise is helpful for maintaining my health both mentally and physically, but I did not have the stamina or strength to get myself doing anything like that before getting on the right medication.

Because of the stigma against medication for mental illness, I fought against going on meds to help treat my depression for a long time.  Now, however, I recognize and celebrate them for what they really are–an important weapon in the fight against mental illness that, for me, was an essential part of recovery.

“Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.”

Psalm 116:7-9

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Don’t Be That Guy ^

The image above is currently at the top of my list of Things That Make My Blood Boil.

As you may have heard, a “Big Brother” contestant spewed forth a bunch of vile nonsense about depression recently on Twitter.  It’s sad to see stigma promoted through the platform of fame, reinforcing people’s misconceptions.  However, a lot of people stood up for mental health awareness in response, which was encouraging!

What is also sad is how many people in our everyday lives still think exactly what he said, people who don’t support our healing and recovery, who don’t understand and aren’t willing to learn.  It’s honestly scary to realize how commonplace and accepted and normalized mental health discrimination is.  I’ve met people who thought it was okay to harass, invalidate, isolate, and emotionally abuse others if they were mentally ill.  This is NOT okay.

To those who don’t understand mental illness:

Don’t be like that guy. You can be part of the solution! When you find something you don’t understand, humility and willingness to listen and learn are a far better response than arrogance and ignorance. Especially when it comes to mental health–there is so much stigma already.


I don’t understand how people I once considered friends could be so cruel during my mental illness, and yet still carry on with their lives as though they are good and blameless and never hurt anyone… how???

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An Allegory

Once upon a time there was a woman who, like everyone else, had preferences about food.  Though she was willing to try almost any food once, she had discovered a few things that she found pretty unappetizing, and tried to avoid those.  Namely, tater tots, papaya, and yogurt. Her family and friends accepted this because they also had preferences about food and considered it normal.

Then one day, she came down with the flu. For days, a fever raged and she couldn’t keep anything down.  Nothing tasted good–in fact, the very thought of food made her heave.  For the first two days, people stopped by to help with ginger ale and Gatorade.  The third day, she realized she was becoming dehydrated and couldn’t keep enough fluids down.  She called a friend for a ride to the hospital.  “You really should have been drinking more fluids, ” the friend commented as she dropped her off. “I really expected you to pull it together by now.”

The woman felt ashamed. Maybe this was her fault.  Certainly if she had tried harder to fight her gag reflex this wouldn’t be happening.

“It’s a good thing you came in when you did,” the doctor remarked. “Dehydration is one of the biggest dangers of the flu and can become life threatening if you don’t seek help.”  Despite hearing this from an expert, the woman struggled to believe it after the words of her well-intentioned friend.

The woman was in the hospital for a week, hooked up to an IV, before she finally began to feel better.   Friends stopped by to check on her and cheer her up.

“It’s wish I had known you had the flu,” one said. “My grandmother swears by herbal tea. Flu is over hospitalized and over medicated when it really isn’t that big of an issue.”

One of her friends refused to come and tried to get others to not go as well.  “Don’t reward her for having the flu,” she urged. “Giving her attention for being sick will only encourage her to dehydrate herself again.  No, it’s best to ignore her until this is over.”

A week after being discharged from the hospital, the woman was feeling like her normal self.  She decided to host a get together to hang out with friends and celebrate her recovery.  Although she offered to do all the cooking, they insisted on making it potluck style so as not to overwhelm her.  They were enjoying the foods of their choice and having a good time, when a friend brought her a plate of seconds. “Here, I saved you some of the yogurt and papaya fruit dish.”

Confused, the woman tried to find a gracious way out without drawing attention to the mistake.  “That’s so sweet of you, but I’m actually full.  Someone else can have the last bit.”

A friend frowned at this response. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? I thought you were over the flu.”

“I’m fine,” she insisted bewilderedly.  “I just don’t want to eat anymore.” She also couldn’t believe they were trying to get her to eat a dish combining two of her least favorite foods.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be here yet,” remarked another friend. “You clearly aren’t eating like normal.”

Pressured and defeated, the woman took the plate, feeling like she had to eat it or be discredited by her friends.  But the combination of two unappetizing foods and having already eaten her fill led to a wave of nausea as she tried to choke more of it down.  She tried to excuse herself gracefully, but it was too late. Everything she had eaten that night came back up all over the kitchen floor.  As it happened, she heard the people talking around her.

“We should go. She obviously isn’t normal yet.”

“I’m sorry, but the flu has changed you. I can’t do this anymore,” the friend who had forced the plate upon her said, and walked out.

“I told you not to give her attention,” the friend who had ignored her during the illness remarked.

“It’s too bad you’re like this. We could have had a really good time.”

I hope that it is immediately apparent to anyone that this is a terrible way to treat someone suffering from a disease, yet many people still treat those with mental illnesses like this all the time!  People with mental illnesses deserve respect and compassion just like everyone else.  They are not defective or inferior for getting sick.  Illness is something that happens to a person, not a character flaw or something that is inherently wrong with them.  It is not the person’s fault that they are ill.  Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness—recovery IS possible and asking for help is brave, NOT shameful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, please seek help!

You can text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 at any time for free and confidential help, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (273-8255).

Please feel free to share!

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Fighting Stigma

As someone who has been fighting mental illness, I could give many examples of the stigma we face. Sadly, people aren’t often willing to try to understand how their behavior is wrong and try to change.  I want you to know that you are not alone if you are dealing with stigma or discrimination.  Here are some things that have been said to me:

  1. “You can’t recover from depression.” Some so-called “friends” in college were militantly insistent that recovery from depression is impossible, to the point of cornering both me and another dear friend (who was recovered from depression!) to argue it further. I find few things more disgusting than people who try to extinguish the hope of others, especially with such blatant lies. Even more, this assertion on their part demonstrated their belief that depression was something inherently wrong with who I was as a person, rather than a diagnose-able and treatable medical condition.  Please know, dear one, that recovery is very real.  Sometimes it takes time to find the right combinations of treatments, and sometimes the journey is long and hard.  But recovery, and hope, are real.
  2. “If you’re on medication, you aren’t recovered.” Umm, no? I am recovered BECAUSE I am on medication. I have a chemical imbalance. It’s like a vitamin deficiency (which I also have). When I take my vitamins, I no longer have the deficiency.  Medication can be a very valuable tool in the fight against depression.  You are not weak if you need it.
  3. Similarly, “If you are seeing a counselor, there is something wrong with you.” The college I was at had free counseling services. Literally anyone could go to them to talk about anything. So even given their other deeply held stigma, this one lacks rationale. Not to mention how terrible it is to perpetuate the belief that an ILLNESS is a personal flaw.  Counseling is a positive and helpful thing!  It is should not be wrong to get help!
  4. “How come you listen to your counselor more than to us? We’re your FRIENDS.” Yeah… this one made it pretty clear that no, they weren’t really friends. Scarily enough, they wanted me to value their opinions (which were completely detached from the scientific facts of my diagnosis and treatment) over the guidance and advice of trained professionals.  Those who have your best interests at heart will value your recovery and the support of medical professionals even if they don’t understand it.
  5. “See? You’re still depressed.” This one came after long, drawn-out lectures about how one can’t recover from depression. My friend who was recovered at the time, finally cracked under the barrage that she couldn’t get away from and cried in frustration, which the assailants then twisted as evidence that she couldn’t get better. This, folks, is EMOTIONAL ABUSE, and it is very, very WRONG. You do not deserve to be treated like that, and if there are people in your life who treat you that way, they don’t deserve to be a part of your life.

I’ll add a list of stigma I have personally experienced and witnessed as a person with mental illness. Please, please, know that these are wrong when someone does them to you, and examine yourself to make sure you never inflict them on others!

  • You should be able to “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together” and if you can’t, there’s something wrong with you. Depression is very real and is not something anyone can just snap out of.
  • Being diagnosed with depression should make you an instant expert on the illness so that you will never inconvenience anyone else, and if you aren’t an instant expert or happen to accidentally inconvenience someone by trusting them, you are a bad person. This is ridiculous. If you are a healthy person who says you care about a person with depression, but the inconveniences of that person trying to understand and heal from an illness are too much for you, you’re a jerk.
  • Conversely, if you have depression your opinion on anything is no longer taken into consideration. Your emotions aren’t valid because of depression, and your feelings are never real and thus don’t matter. Again, this is ridiculous. Even if your feelings are not always what they would normally be, they are always real to you. You deserve to be respected as a person. Your opinions still matter.
  • It’s okay to treat someone with depression as “less than.” NO. You are just as valuable and deserving of love as anyone else.
  • Depression is a topic that is up for debate and personally decided, not a scientific or medical issue. Do I even have to contradict this one? It’s an illness. There is scientific research. People need to stop being bigoted and ignorant.
  • People with depression are not worthy of the same respect and communication as people without depression. A person’s a person, no matter what illness(es) they may or may not have!
  • It’s okay to talk behind someone’s back, lie to them, and treat them as inferior if they have depression. No. Why would anyone of those things ever be okay for anyone???
  • People with depression just want attention. In my experience, the last thing most people with depression want is attention drawn to them by their illness. If I ask you for help because of my depression, I must be pretty freaking desperate.
  • Seeking help for depression is a sign of weakness. A huge NO to this! Seeking help is one of the bravest and strongest decisions I (and many others I know with similar diagnoses) have ever made.

To sum up: It is terrible to treat someone badly because of an illness of any kind, including mental illnesses, but it happens ALL THE TIME. Please be part of the solution, not part of the problem! And if you are fighting a mental illness, please know that you do not deserve to be mistreated, and the stigma is not your fault.

Love and prayers!