May is Mental Health Month. There have been quite a few Facebook posts lately about depression and anxiety. I thought it was appropriate to do a blog post on this topic, not only because it is Mental Health Month, but because depression and anxiety are conditions that I am all too familiar with. I even published a book back in 2009 that included my story as well as the stories of others who struggle with these issues.
Depression is complicated. There are many wonder drugs out there but they don’t always work for everyone. In actuality they sometimes may cause the condition to worsen. In my case, when first diagnosed, it took months of different combinations to find the right ones that would help me to feel better. But there is something else that helps and that is talking about your situation and reaching out for support from others.
However, there are two big hurdles to overcome here. First, it’s not easy to talk to other people about this. It’s not easy to even admit to yourself that you have this condition and that you require treatment. So how are you to feel comfortable in sharing this experience with others?
Secondly, unless you have experienced the darkness of depression yourself, you cannot truly understand how devastating it can be. And because you can’t comprehend it, you are reluctant to offer the needed support, whether it be out of ignorance or perhaps even fear.
What is the solution to this problem? Society as a whole needs to be educated with regards to depression and anxiety. Those of us who struggle with mental health issues are not crazy. This stigma must disappear. Depression and anxiety are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Telling people to get over it and think positive thoughts is not the answer. This just contributes to the problem.
I have learned the importance of reaching out for help when I am feeling down. I am fortunate in having a network of supportive friends and an outstanding therapist in my life. Given my past, without these people, I highly doubt that I would be here today writing this blog post.
If you know someone struggling with depression and anxiety, please be there for them. Be patient and understanding. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, and let them know that you are more than willing to be a part of their support system. Do not be afraid of saying the wrong thing as often your presence means far more to them than your words. After all, wouldn’t you want someone to be there for you if you were the one spiraling down that black hole?