As many of you may or may not know, as I myself was unaware, World Mental Health Awareness Day is today, October 10th. First started in 1992, it is now celebrated in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its goal is to bring attention to mental illness and the major effect it has on people (1). When I was deciding what to write about for this post, a picture and an idea was making it’s way around the internet.
Over 41 million people in the United States take an antidepressant (2).
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States (3). It affects 16.1 million adults over the age of 18 (4). Depression can cause severe symptoms affecting sleeping, eating habits, personal relationships, and work life. It can cause a loss of interest in activities, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, irritability, decreased energy, appetite changes, physical pain, digestive problems, and thoughts of suicide and or attempts. These are just some of the symptoms that people with this disorder have to live with everyday. This is a serious illness that affects a large population and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
A diabetic cannot go without their medication and you would never expect them to. So why do we treat mental illnesses and depression differently? Without insulin a diabetic could go into diabetic ketoacidosis, a coma, or even die. Without their antidepressants a person can fall into a deep depression, become recluse, and or commit suicide. This article explains perfectly how suicide is a symptom of mental illness Stop Looking For Answers: Suicide Is No One’s Fault.
The original post of the above especially got to me, not only because it is Mental Health Awareness Day, but because of a pharmacy snafu, I found myself without my antidepressant for 3 days this past week. That might not seem like a lot of time, but in my experience abruptly stopping any antidepressant causes me to quickly show signs of withdrawal. After the first day I started to experience severe stomach pain. I later realized, after blowing it off, it was withdrawal when I suddenly started getting dizzy. My eyes felt as if they were throbbing in my skull and I felt as if I was sea sick. I knew I wouldn’t be getting my medication for a few more days but I was already so sick without it. I was terrified. I found myself struggling for control over my depression. I would just cry for no reason. Finally, after three days and countless phone calls I was able to get a 2 week sample of my prescription from my doctor, but my pharmacy still could not fill my prescription for a week.
Even after being back on my medication for two days, I was swinging in and out of a depressive state. I was afraid to be alone. All of my fears and worries came rushing back, as if a dark cloud was looming overhead. The next day I called my doctor and we figured out a new game plan and I’m feeling better, but I’m still not back to where I was before. I’m afraid I may never get back to that place again. That is the delicate balance of a mental illness. After all that I’ve been through, to say that depression is not a real illness, that it is something that can be brushed off by a walk in the woods, is ignorant to those who struggle everyday. On today of all days, everyone should know that depression is something that many people can’t manage on their own without relying medication.
I am one of those people.
I have depression, and it doesn’t have me. Everyone with a disorder, disease, or illness are not defined by it. It’s important to understand managing whatever you have, so that you can express who you really are to the world.
Let’s not shame those who are brave enough to seek help for their illness. Only 44% of adults with a mental illness ever seek treatment according to this insightful article about Mental Health Facts and Myths. So many suffer in silence, too afraid to ever get the help they need. Let’s raise each other up and embrace our differences, instead of judging one another.
Read more about my battle with depression here.