Monday, June 20, 2016

A Personal Look at Depression, Anxiety, and Mental Illness

Honestly, I am a little scared to write this post because it is so personal, but today my heart felt like I need to write it. Over the past few weeks, friends, mostly on FB, have expressed feelings of depression, sadness, worthlessness, anxiety, and hopelessness. I have responded to their thoughts with a suggestion that they seek some type of help like therapy. I don't know if they found my suggestion helpful or insulting, but I would like to share a story from my life so they can understand why I made the suggestion.

Several years ago, after moving to New York from Sweden, I was in a funk. It started out as a little funk brought on by stress and the shock of moving to a new culture. I felt overwhelmed by trying to help my kids adapt to life in a new country, adjust to the high cost of living, and learning a new culture. The list of things I had to do as a mother was overwhelming and it included finding a new endocrinologist to manage my Hashimotos Thyroid Disease, which I neglected to do.

My little funk deepened into a deep dark depression as the summer hit. Our house wasn't air-conditioned and we were unbearably hot. Mentally, I felt horrible. I barely managed to get out of bed each morning. My parenting was pretty bad too.

I was scared, isolated (by my own fault), and felt completely worthless and hopeless. This was a complete far cry from my confident, happy, trusting, and positive self that I left behind in Sweden. It was so bad that I felt my children and husband would be better off without me. I never told anyone about my feelings. I didn't share what I was experiencing with my husband, a close friend, my parents or sisters, or anyone. People may have suspected that I was having a hard time, but I put on my pretend face and tried to white-knuckle my way through my depression.

One day a thought penetrated through the haze that I should find an endocrinologist and go back on my medicine. By this time, I had gone over eight or nine months without taking medication. It was impossibly difficult for me to find a doctor, book an appointment, and then meet with the doctor. In the examining room, the doctor came in and I burst into tears. Without hesitation, he prescribed medication and insisted that I return in six weeks.

With the help of the thyroid medication, my depression began to lift and my heart and mind slowly returned to normal. To this day, I carry a deep regret that I did not reach out for help either from family, friends, or a doctor. My suffering was needless and could have been prevented if I had sought help.

A couple years later, a close friend had a very close call with suicide, but was saved in time. Her situation rocked my world and I determined never to put myself back in the situation I was in years earlier. My husband's work provided a number of free counseling sessions with a licensed therapist and I took advantage of them. I wanted to learn skills and get tools for coping with life's challenges. Women in my ward selflessly babysat my baby for free so I could go to therapy.

Going to a doctor and later, a therapist, really helped me. In fact, I would go again if I started to feel bad or was experiencing hard challenges I couldn't cope with.

Here is what I want to say, from the bottom of my heart, to all my friends who are trying to white-knuckle their way through depression, anxiety, or mental illness:

1) You are not alone. You are worthy, important, and valuable. Your life has meaning.

2) Please, please, please, please, please GO GET HELP. Tell a friend, family member, clergy member that you need help. Some churches will help their members get counseling services for free or a reduced fee. Check your health insurance to see if it covers some kind of counseling sessions. There are even online services you can call.

3) If you can't afford getting professional care, try and find a trusted friend or family member who is supportive and loving to you that would be willing to compassionately listen.

4) Don't be afraid to use medication if it is suggested. I'm not suggesting that you blindly take medication without assessing the risks. I am suggesting that you carefully consider it. I take two different medications to treat my lupus and thyroid everyday and will for the rest of my life. I do this so that I remain healthy to live my life fully and happily. Why would a person willingly take medication to maintain their physical health and not take medication to maintain their emotional health? It boggles my mind. It is not bad to take medication to help your mental health. Some people may need to take it their whole lives, while others may take it just for a short period of time. Of course, not all medication will work, but there are treatment options available. Don't ignore your options, especially if they will help you.

5) Make sure you investigate other medical issues. Who knew that my thyroid gland could affect my mental state? I didn't but after my horrible experience, I know that I must take it to be healthy. Go to your doctor and get a full medical exam and run any tests that are needed. Tell your doctor your emotional struggles and ask them to check issues that can cause depression.

I really hopes this helps.

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