Depression: My Blessing in Disguise

Greetings everyone!

Today, I really really wanted to do a makeup or a skincare review, because I just can’t wait to get into it.  So, if you expected a beauty related post, I apologize, but I promise, it’ll happen soon.  I have several drafts and great ideas for upcoming posts.  In my first article (read here), I had mentioned that this blog is mainly a beauty blog, but also one where I will share many other interests. Right now,  I feel I need to address a social issue that hits close to home.  In fact, I think it affects and concerns us all as a society and as individuals.

Last week was Bell’s Let’s talk : an annual event designed to bring awareness to mental illnesses and education on general mental health. It is a delicate subject for me, because I know all about it. I knew I was going to address it on my blog, I just didn’t think I’d do it so soon, for God sake!  We barely know each other, right?!  It’s like disclosing past relationships on a first date! Anyway, after putting some thought into it, I decided I needed to give voice to this matter.   It is too important to be ignored, too many of us suffer in silence and it has to end.  We must start a dialog and bring mindfulness to it.  Mental health is so taboo in our supposedly modern and open society.  If we were talking about cancer or some bacterial epidemic, we would be all over it.  But mental illnesses are stigmatized, and frankly it makes my blood boil!  Besides, there is NO shame in suffering  from a mental illness, the shame is in letting the myths and the prejudice destroy the hope.

“I didn't want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that's really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you're so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”  ― Ned Vizzini, It's Kind of a Funny Story

“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
― Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

That quote is from author/writer Ned Vizzini*  (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) describes my state of mind in my darkest moments.  Here is my story…

Depression: my personal experience

You probably wouldn’t know it when you see me or meet me, because I don’t wear a sign on my forehead (!) and because mental illness is, in my opinion,  an invisible and silent cancer of the mind that robs you of your spirit.

For more than 15 years, I have battled (and still am battling) with a chronic depression. Before I experienced any symptoms, I had gone through a traumatic incident. I thought I could recover from it on my own…I was so wrong. I tried to go about my life as if nothing had happened, I tried to minimize the “noise”, so I pushed any emotion related to that incident…  Soon enough, anxiety started to creep in, my thoughts were going a mile a minute in my head, then insomnia got into the mix (because when you think too much, it disrupts your sleep).  Right after that, hypersomnia decided to meddle:  I’d sleep too much, mostly to escape the emotional pain, then I started to be afraid of everything, I had irrational fears.  Slowly I stopped doing all the activities I loved; practicing my piano, going out to the movies and even shopping!  (Those who know me, know that shopping is one of my many passions and that I can shop ’til I drop!)

So, on top of the symptoms I already had, I became irritable, couldn’t concentrate or focus, my emotions were all over the place and I was tired all the time. Consequently, I started to spend all my time in my room, I isolated myself from my family and friends. I was afraid to go outside and  I didn’t want to go in crowded places.  I didn’t take my phone calls (when the phone rang, I’d just stare at it or ignored it), it seemed like I didn’t care, but the fact is that I barely had the strength to speak. I would stare at walls for long periods of time.  I wasn’t living, I was merely existing;   going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other,  because that’s what I had to do. It took a year for doctors to diagnose me, because “physically” I seemed fine. So they would send me back home telling me to “sleep it off”, that it was just a “phase”, that things would get better, they told me to “take a walk every day” to get some fresh air.  I wish things were as simple as that!

Small fact about me: At age 2, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness called sickle cell anemia (which I will discuss another time).  So, doctors chalked up all my depression symptoms to fatigue related to my sickle cell…

But then things got worse for me, to the point where I was a danger to myself.  I knew myself and my body well enough to know that I needed help right away.   It wasn’t easy, but I did find a good therapist who listened.  I tried a plethora of anti-depressants, anxiolytics, sleeping drugs, etc.  I felt like a lab rat, it was pure torture because some of the medication didn’t work and  I experienced a lot of side-effects: dizziness, grogginess, dry mouth, sleepiness, auditory hallucinations, palpitations, etc.  I was a sleeping zombie.  When we finally did find the right medication, it took time for it to be efficient (most anti-depressants can take to 4 to 6 weeks before they start working).  Keep in mind that when you’re hurting, a day is like a month, and you want that pain to end yesterday!  So waiting a month to get just a sigh of relief was hard.

Support gives hope…

Depression is no walk in the park,  and aside from what we see on television, which is often a distorted reality, society is not really educated on the subject. Back when I was in my dark period, I didn’t think there was any hope of getting out of it, I thought I was doomed to be unhappy and miserable, the emotional pain was too much to bear. What ever I had gone through in my life prior to this, I had been able to get out of, but this was different.  My efforts were vain… I can take physical pain, but when you hurt emotionally and when every waking moment seems like hell on earth, you don’t want to go on living.  When you’re in physical pain, your heart gives you strength to go through it, but when your heart and mind are affected, where can you get the strength from?

Thankfully, several years later, I am doing much better, I have a different perspective on things and I’m slowly but surely recovering.  I certainly never  thought I’d be in a place where I can talk about it with a smile on my face.  I credit my faith in God and the support of my loving family.  My parents were patient even though they didn’t understand everything at first.  They listened and cared for me in whatever I needed. I realized it was hard for them to see me in the state I was in.  Their love and support saw me through the hardest periods.  If you know someone dealing with depression or any other mental illness, please help them.  Most people dealing with mental health issues contemplate suicide, but in reality, they don’t want to die, they want the pain to go away and they want their life back.  It is a serious and a deadly illness, if not treated.  No body chooses to be mentally ill…  Depression, unlike us humans, does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone.

Let’s end the prejudice…

As I have said above, depression is taboo.  Yet, I do think we are making progress.  Ten years ago, I couldn’t share any of this to someone other than a family member, let alone write about it on a blog!   I think we are finally starting to establish a dialogue that will change mentalities and attitudes.  Events like Bell’s Let’s Talk are of a great importance.  Please, let’s put an end to the prejudice and to the silly myths in regards to mental health and let’s help one another!  Let us break down the walls of ignorance, people!

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA),” one in every five Canadian adults under age 65 will have a mental health problem“. This means that you, or someone you know, will be affected by a mental illness. Do not let them suffer alone or in silence.  There are already plenty of websites and resources available to explore all the intricacies of mental illnesses, so I won’t go into them.  However, I want to insist on the fact that it’s about time we stop judging and start helping! If you break a leg, no one expects you to run a marathon, so let’s have the same courtesy towards people affected by mental illnesses. What ever happened to human kindness?

A blessing in disguise…

Looking back, depression made me stronger and showed me how much of a fighter and of a warrior I am;  I was able to pull internal resources I didn’t even know I had to get better.   I’m in a much quieter place in my life right now and I’m so grateful for it.  I’m not saying I’m glad I went through depression, I’m saying it didn’t happen in vain.  Through the years, with therapy, I was able to really look at myself and change some things within me.  I’m much more empathetic, more grounded and more mature in the way I deal with life’s setbacks.  I decided to hang on to the ray of sunshine through that dark dark cloud that was over me…and I was triumphant, I AM triumphant!  Of course, when you are going through something difficult, it’s not a realization that comes upon you, and I never could have said that years ago.

I now see depression as a “blessing in disguise“;  it gave me the ability and the gift to see hardships in a new light.  I have decided that what ever happens in the future, what matters are not the circumstances, but the disposition of my heart to be open and positive about the situation at hand…  So, depression may have taken from me, but it also gave me a new found strength.

A message of hope: you will OVERCOME!

As we’re coming to the end of this post, my heart goes out  to all of you suffering from a mental illness;  you may think you are alone, maybe you are staring this “darkness” in the face thinking there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, you may feel overwhelmed, powerless and  paralyzed by the anxiety and the fears…I know, I get it, I understand.  It will get better … You’re probably reading this and rolling your eyes at me, because your pain is so vivid and so deep that you can’t possibly imagine how it’ll get better.  All you want is to sleep and wake up when the pain is gone.  I know, I was there, and I still have those moments.  But, please, hang on,  hang on to the possibility, hang on to the next second,  and hang on tight!  Do not give up on yourself!

There is so much more I would like to say, but I’ll exit by urging everyone of you to help out any way you can:  lend an ear, donate money or your time, but do not stand idle while someone you know is hurting.  I used to hear testimonies of people who had overcome depression, I’d dismiss them thinking it was easy for them to say since their ordeal was over.  I now know that it is an everyday battle, but it’s a battle you CAN and WILL win!

Thank you for reading…

Arabesque

* Ned Vizzini had struggled all his life with depression and anxiety.  He died after he committed suicide in December 2013.

For more on mental health, go to : http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

For more on depression: http://www.mooddisorderscanada.ca/index.php

If you think you or someone you know is dealing with depression, go to  http://www.depressionhurts.ca/en/checklist/

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