Let me first start by saying I’m not an expert in this matter. I’m not a doctor or trained psychiatrist. Everything I say is my own thoughts, opinions & personal experiences.
Last night the entire world was knocked down to their knees. An icon that most of us grew up watching finally lost his battle to a life long struggle with depression. He was 63 years old, had millions of dollars, all the fame in the world & a loving family. To most of us, we’d all say he had everything, right? Wrong. On the inside he was the complete opposite of the characters we all knew & loved. He was anything but happy & goofy. And that’s what happens when you suffer from depression or any mental illness for that matter…someone suffering looks just like the rest of us. And I think that’s why so many people have a hard time understanding depression. They expect the person to look sick & since they don’t then obviously this illness can’t be that serious. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American, 40 million adults suffer from anxiety in the United States. Major depressive disorder is the leading disability in the county, effecting 14.8 million people. I’m not going to compare the statistics of other serious illnesses because I’m not trying to take anything away from them, I’m just focusing on this one serious illness. But yes, the numbers do beat out some other major diseases. So with it being so huge, why do people still refuse to consider it to be a “real” illness? Why won’t insurance companies provide better (and ANY in some cases) coverage for people battling this day in & day out?
For me personally, I know more people that currently take an antidepressant than not. All these people look like the rest of us. They all get up everything morning & go to work. All while silently dying inside. People suffering from other sicknesses, & again I’m not going to name any, have days where they are too sick from treatments or medicines. Or they are too weak to get out of bed. So they call into work sick. If someone were to call into their job & say “I’m really depressed today, I can’t make it in” they’d lose their job. Depression doesn’t come with treatments that make it go away. There are medicines of course that can help CONTROL it, but it’ll never go away. It will be a constant battle for that person every single day for the rest of their lives. There’s no remission. There’s no cure.
I went through horrible post partum depression after my second daughter was born. Thankfully it only lasted a year which is the norm for PPD, but it was the worst, hardest & longest year of my life. I was sad, depressed, anxious, alone (even though I wasn’t), lost, empty…dead. Completely dead inside. There truly is no way of explaining the magnitude of it unless you go through it yourself & see it firsthand. To try & bring a little insight to you, mine was so severe the doctors have all advised that I don’t have any more children because PPD comes back with each pregnancy & gets worse & worse. I remember looking at my 2 beautiful, perfect little girls, the life I have, the house I live in, my wonderful family & friends, & still thinking I’d rather die than feel this way. I’d rather leave all this behind just to make this horrible feeling end. Thankfully I stuck it out (trust me, it wasn’t easy), took medicine & prayed for it to work. It did eventually. The loneliness, sadness, etc all eventually went away, but not before being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from it all. I’m now almost 4 months medicine free & feeling great. Don’t get me wrong, I still have some down & “blah” days as I like to call them. But I’m only human.
At first I was embarrassed to tell anyone what was going on with me & most people didn’t know how to handle it. My husband took it the hardest. He didn’t know what to do or say or how to approach the situation at all. After some time I realized there is nothing to be embarrassed about. I didn’t choose this. There was nothing I did that brought it on. It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain.
2 weeks before Robin Williams killed myself, he posted a throwback picture of him & his youngest baby on Twitter. It was in honor of her 25th birthday. He clearly was a man that loved his 3 children. But even the thought of never seeing them again, or them seeing their dad again could help him. His disease was bigger than him. Like a good friend of mine puts it, “you better pray that your demons inside never awake, because once they do…good luck.” Depression is not something you have control over. The most important thing is that if you’re sad you need to tell someone immediately. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. This is an illness, not a character flaw.
Don’t tell someone who is depressed to “smile” or “think happy thoughts.” And never tell them to “snap out of it.” It’s not like a light switch that can be shut off & on any time we feel. Trust me, we would love to smile & think happy thoughts, but it is physically impossible when someone is in the middle of a depressive episode. Hopefully losing Mrs. Doubtfire will open peoples eye into this disease.
“Genie. You’re free.”