Tag Archives: stigma

No, You’re Not Okay

I broke this week.

I crashed this week.

I drowned this week.

Whatever you want to call it, my depression came back. I think I probably just didn’t take care of myself as much as I needed to. I’m not sure. I wasn’t exercising or sleeping enough, and was very stressed and overwhelmed by the amount and difficulty of the homework I needed to do. It was too much. College can be too much.

I ended up crying and having “depressive attacks” four days in a row. Wednesday I had a migraine, took a nap, started self-medicating with Benedryl and Advil, and slept a lot. Thursday and Friday I was so far behind on homework that I worked for 8+ hours straight through, both days, stopping only to eat. And to go to class. It’s not really surprising that I couldn’t stop crying.

I don’t know if anyone else has a name for what I call my “depressive attacks.” They must. Any ideas? For me, they’re very similar to panic attacks, but there is not feeling of panic or anxiety. Instead it is grief. There is this intense feeling of deep inner sadness that starts in the gut, and can only work its way out through crying.

It is a wave of grief that washes over me which can only let itself out by crying the disgustingly intense kind of crying. The kind that should only be cried when someone you love has died. The attack sneaks up on you, hits hard, then passes as quietly as it came.

When I have my depressive attacks is when I feel the most vulnerable, embarrassed, and ashamed. I do not like people to see me in that state. It is terrifying for them– they feel helpless and afraid of the monster, my illness, which has stolen me right out of my body. I know it will pass– they don’t know it will pass. It’s not fair to them.

Friday night I had one of my depressive attacks with one of my best friends around. She’d never seen it before.

One of the things I do when I am in that state is tell myself that I’m okay. I find it calming. And I need to remind myself that the feelings will pass.

I’m okay.

I’m okay.

I’m going to be okay.

I wish so much that she hadn’t been around when it hit. I hurt her– I scared her. And at one point she responded to me:

No, you’re not okay.

No, you’re not. That cut through. Because there was so much truth to it– I wasn’t okay. I was just telling myself that.

I knew I was going to be okay. I am okay– good, even– now. But I wasn’t then. And I’m ashamed of the person she saw on Friday night. Of that person who wasn’t okay.

I want this blog to have an air of hope against the stigma of mental illness. But I also want it to be honest. And that is the truth.

I am ashamed of the person she saw on Friday night.

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I like to pretend…

“I guess I like to pretend I don’t have this problem.”

I’ll be studying abroad in Hungary in the fall, and was discussing logistics about it during my psychiatry check-in this morning. I was feeling really good and comfortable with the plan we were working out–we figured out how I will get my prescriptions–but then she said to me:

“Yes. But what will you do if you are all the way in Eastern Europe on your own and you become symptomatic again?”

Oh.

I have no clue how, but that concept had completely slipped my mind. I had literally given no thought to what I would do if I was abroad and wasn’t okay anymore. I guess I like to pretend I don’t have this problem.

Even with my disordered eating habits, I have been doing so much better this year than ever before in my adult life. I feel so stable, so good, so in control of myself right now. I take my meds when I wake up, I go to nutrition and counseling check-ups, exercise, write in my diary, keep my food logs– I’ve found a self-care routine that’s working.

For the first time in my adult life, I know what it feels like to not live in constant fear of my illness.

I know I am so blessed and lucky to be able to say that. I never thought I would. But my appointment today gave me the necessary reminder that I will always, always have this part of me.

I will never outgrow my mental illness.

I will never be cured of my mental illness.

My mental illness will always be a part of who I am, and something I will always carry with me– even as far away as Hungary.

I’ve already had six years to try to reconcile myself with my illness, and even so, I’m still trying not to be angry about it.

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Sick enough?

One of my friends posted a link to this article on her Facebook wall:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/12/soft-grunge/

It’s an article about Millennials and this new “style” called soft-grunge, which at its core makes intense emotion, depression, and mental illness appear beautiful. The article argues that this beautification of mental illness by young adults who may not have or understand mental illness leads to “erasure” of the experiences of those who really are suffering, thus worsening the stigma of mental illness.

The part of the article I really connected with, however, had little to do with the “soft grunge” stream of thought. What hit me was about halfway down, where the author writes, If you can selectively channel an emotion at will, it’s not mental illness.”

For me, that really resonates as an accurate way to describe mental illness, even though it defines mental illness by way of saying what it is not.

Mental illness is not having control over your emotions.

I have always struggled with defining mental illness– how do I know something is wrong with me? How do I know that I’m different? How do I justify, unfortunately even to myself, that I have a problem? That I am sick enough, and thus worthy of, my meds and all that expensive psychotherapy? It seems like a silly thing, a side point, but I am constantly trying to reassure myself that I need all of it.

I started my meds because I no longer felt safe with myself. I was too suicidal, and I couldn’t control my feelings. Using the article’s definition, I was suffering from mental illness because I didn’t have control over my thoughts or emotions. I was scared to be left alone with myself. 

Yes, I think that is “sick enough.”

Why do I need to keep reassuring myself of that?

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