Depression... the insider's tour


I'm not feeling well. Depression is a hell of a thing. I know most people wouldn't make a public statement about this, but I feel that a bout of depression shouldn't be treated any differently than any other flare up of a medical condition. But there is such stigma against speaking openly about mental health challenges that I felt it was worthwhile to put this out there for a few reasons. As an advocate for survivors, I think it's important to be transparent and open about the challenges I face on a personal level. I am not ashamed of them, and I don't want others to feel shame for the issues they fight through either. Further, ignoring or denying depression makes about as much sense as ignoring a cold, and can exacerbate the underlying condition. I also hope that by being public about the struggles I have with depression, I can help de-stigmatize the issue for others. It doesn't matter if you are a survivor of abuse or not, depression is not something that only survivors battle with. I won't get into what triggered this - there's likely a whole host of reasons and any attempt to explain why this flared up at this moment would have the effect of focussing attention on the wrong things. I also want to be clear - I'm not sad, nor am I filled with thoughts of self-harm. Depression isn't sadness - it's a kind of mental shut down.

As an advocate for survivors, I think it's important to be transparent and open about the challenges I face on a personal level. I am not ashamed of them, and I don't want others to feel shame for the issues they fight through either.

Depression is a fairly regular occurance in my life. I have about 2-3 bouts a year. Over time, and with a tremendous amount of work to address the trauma and abuse I experienced that have exacerbated my depression, the severity of these episodes has greatly decreased. But the truth is that depression will likely continue to be a part of my life for years to come. At this time, what I am feeling most acutely is a sense of powerlessness. This manifests in many different ways - for instance opening up my email inbox leaves me feeling overwhelmed by my work and the challenges we face as an organization. My first reaction to seeing the unread messages is a sense of unease and fear. This is as opposed to my "normal" state of mind where I just plow through and look forward to the challenges and opportunities at hand. My impulse is to dissociate - I want to block out the world and just hole up until these storm clouds pass. For the next few days at least, I will be focussing on compassion and self-care. I will be working as best as I can, but I also know that my ability to follow through is compromised at the moment. In my experience, these waves of depression come and go like a cold. And, like a cold, it is important to take time to rest and recouperate instead of pushing too hard to act "normal," or to appear that nothing is wrong. Please know that I am getting the care and support that I need to get over this. Given past experience I'm confident that I will be back to "normal" in a short time. If reading this has made you realize that perhaps you are dealing with some mental health issues as well - such as depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, or otherwise struggling - please know that you are not crazy, or broken, or flawed - anymore than someone with a cold is flawed. There are things we can do to ride these storms out, and we don't have to do it alone. Don't get trapped in a mindset of fear that stops you from being open and honest about your pain. Asking for compassion and help is never a sign of weakness.

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