Shattering the Stigma

cloudy depression

When you meet Theodora, she’s the smiliest person ever who seems to have a secret energy source within her. She kept me laughing during Reach the Beach. But even when someone seems super happy, there can be a lot going on under the surface. – Christine

When I wrote about depression last year, Christine wrote that, and if you saw/met me in real life, you probably wouldn’t guess I struggle/have struggled with depression. I have a silly sense of humor and laugh easily. Often, I laugh until I cry (it’s kind of awkward for my makeup, but whatever.)

But sometimes, I go through life feeling apathetic — not wanting to see friends and family, not wanting to work out, having a hard time concentrating at work, having a hard time sleeping — and just feeling like I’m carrying around a shroud of sadness on my back.

Last year, when I wrote that post, I’d felt like that for too long, continuously. Major depressive disorder is defined as feeling like that for two weeks or more, but I’d felt like that, to varying degrees, for several months…for no external reason. There was nothing going on in my life that indicated I should feel depressed which sometimes made it more frustrating. But after I hurt my back last summer, I realized exercise was what was keeping me hanging on. Without that, I really couldn’t take things any more. I cried for no reason, I withdrew so I didn’t lash out, and I listened to my therapist and saw a psychiatrist about meds, just like I’d see a doctor for an inhaler if I had asthma.

I was so afraid to take psychiatric meds. What that meant. What that said about me. But I finally caved in when I felt talking to friends, family, a therapist, healthy habits — none of that helped. She prescribed me Wellbutrin, which I’ve now been on for about a year. A reader recently asked me how it had affected me, being on it for almost a year. I was afraid it would numb me out, but it really did the opposite, as I was feeling pretty numb when I started it. I’ve felt more stable, and the lows haven’t been quite as low, and I can feel and appreciate the highs better. I don’t want to be on meds for the rest of my life (and actually would like to try going off them sooner than later), so I’ve also been making lifestyle changes and drinking less wine and eating less crap. This is the book I read, and while I take some of what it says with a grain of salt, there’s also some good lifestyle/nutrition advice in there.

In a way, I’m glad that if this had to happen, it was before my mom got sick. I knew I had a solid support team medically and in my personal life, and I had the tools to handle something major like that. In no way did any of this make it easy to deal with, but I feel like I handled and dealt with the situation truly the best way I could have. (And now she’s better!!!)

photo: Uplift

photo: Uplift

I tell you this because I attended a beautiful event at Uplift last night — a discussion about mental health as part of their Strong Women Uplift Each Other series.

There was a therapist as guest, but so many beautiful, strong women spoke up about their own struggles with anxiety, depression and mental health issues. I’m partially writing this post because this is what I wanted to speak up to say last night. I’m sort of shy in those situations, but it felt like a really safe space…but they began wrapping things up just as I worked up the nerve to raise my hand.

We talked a lot about the stigma in our society and among other women about mental health. We all like to think we all have it together — or at least appear as such, especially in a competitive city like NYC. But whether it’s chemical or situational, we’re all going to feel like this at some point in life. It’s healthy to some degree. It’s what gets us through tough situations — if we were just chill after a breakup or a job loss, that would be concerning.

It’s obviously not easy to write these posts, but if they help even one person, it’s worth it, truly.

12 comments on “Shattering the Stigma

  1. Katie

    For me, depression is like having high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Yes, lifestyle changes can significantly help these issues, but medication also limits the impact they have on day-to-day life. Depression runs in my family, just like high cholesterol or high blood pressure runs in families. I take medication for it and also try to increase my mental health through things like exercise and eating a balanced diet. I think the difference between depression and high cholesterol, however, is that when my depression is not under control (when I’m off my medication), I don’t WANT to exercise or eat healthy. I don’t want to do anything positive for myself at all. But when people don’t take medication for high cholesterol, many become even MORE motivated to eat healthy and exercise.

    All that to say, everyone is different and I don’t judge anyone for their choices. I don’t feel any shame in taking Zoloft if it makes me a more functional and positive person. I know how much worse my life is without it. Thanks for sharing your experience Theodora – I appreciate your openness and transparency as I’m sure many other readers do as well! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Michelle

    Thank you for sharing Theodora! I’ve been on anxiety medicine for almost six years now and debating on going off of them. I dealt with debilitating anxiety which fueled my depression. It was driven by feelings of inadequacy academically, socially, and aesthetically specifically while in college. The feelings still linger, but due to my medicine they don’t make me crumble like they did while in college. If you ever need someone to relate to – let’s chat.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    Thank you so much for posting this – I’m sure it’s not easy to put yourself out there like this. Despite being a social worker and singing the praises of psych meds to my clients daily, it’s taken me a while to get on board with them myself. But, this morning, I went to the pyschatrist and she perscribed Welbutrin. I hope it helps me as much as it seems to have helped you 🙂

    Reply
  4. Chrissy

    Thank You for being so brave and sharing your story. The world needs more people like you to let others know they are not alone. Have you heard about Wear Your Label (I’m not affiliated with them)? They are a clothing company aimed at letting people know that mental illness is OK. The more we talk about it, the sooner the stigma will be erased. Take care.

    Reply
  5. Glen

    I love your statement “…but they began wrapping things up just as I worked up the nerve to raise my hand.”

    That’s how it is for me a lot – I listen to others, so glad they are willing to be vulnerable, relating to what they say, wanting to be part of the conversation and by the time I’m ready to jump in…time to wrap it up!

    Even making comments on your blog…I relate to many of the things you say and many of the experiences you have. Sometimes as a guy I feel like I’m eavesdropping as you talk to your girlfriends. But, I need to be brave enough to get into the conversation. We can all learn from each other.

    Reply
  6. Catherine

    Wow!! This post could not have come at a more perfect time for me – hell i could have written it myself if i had a blog!!!!! I have been in an unbelievable ‘funk’ for a number of months and it is affecting everything – work and personal life, weight, EVERYTHING!!!!! I am that person who is happy on the outside and curled up in a ball on the inside. I haven’t yet reached the point of medication – partly because of the stigma attached to it and partly because i think i dont need it (connected to the stigma issue- i dont want to ‘admit defeat’). Anyway thanks Theodora for sharing the light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

    Reply
  7. Julia

    Yes. So much yes.

    I actually find a lot of my friends and family have depression and anxiety. I feel like I can spot a person with depression or anxiety. Sometimes before they notice it in themselves. There is something about living through the hell that is depression that changes how you see the world. When I see the signs of suffering in another person, I want to yell RUN DONT WALK GET HELP!!! you do not have to live like this. It gets better. It isn’t always better, but it doesn’t have to be always worse!

    Breaking the stigma and creating bridges to getting the help people need is a great start.

    Reply
  8. Lisa

    Thanks for this. I started going to therapy last year to help cope with grief and loss. It has really helped me deal with things this past year.

    Reply
  9. Wendy

    Thank you for this, it’s so important that we shed continue to shed light on mental and emotional health, let people know it’s okay to struggle and it’s important to seek support. There will be ups and downs, even with treatment and support, which can sometimes be a challenge. I wish that I could say good riddance forever to my anxiety. I’ve suffered from generalized anxiety for years, and zoloft helps me so much. Talk therapy is a game changer as well for so many, i’ve gone in the past and go in for “check ups”. My pet peeve is people who glorify anxiety about things(i.e. using the oven in your small apt) that on the surface appear to detract from individuals who suffer crippingly anxiety. That said, if you really are about of your oven (I used to have a crippingly fear of fire), then go ahead and seek help, ain’t no shame in that game.

    Reply

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