Depression? Health Care Reform? Mental Health Stigma?

I walked along the river, I walked and walked and walked until I was out of breath and the sweat was dripping into my eyes. It stung my eyes and yet felt so good. I listened to my MP3 player, song after song and I think I met the Devil himself in those woods. I never once thought about my safety – walking along the path by myself. Maybe it’s because I’m used to being by myself. I kept turning up the music hoping I could escape the evils of my life and of the world. But, the music wouldn’t play loud enough. The evils of the world reverberated in my head much like a migraine headache feels.
I have fought all day to focus on the good days, but there aren’t any good days amongst all the bad. Do you know what that is called? It’s called “Major Depressive Disorder.”Don’t even dare tell me that I just need to shake it off, I just need to think positive thoughts, I just need to pray or any of the other thousands of home remedies people have freely given me. Depression is real and it affects a very large percentage of the world population. It affects me! It is my title, my name, my label and my diagnosis. People have “blue” days. But clinical depression places you in a vice grip and never lets go.

You think you know what depression is like? You don’t unless you have suffered from this horrible disorder for most of your life:

“Depression is a disturbance in mood characterized by varying degrees of sadness, disappointment, loneliness, hopelessness, self-doubt, and guilt. These feelings can be quite intense and may persist long periods of time. Daily activities may become more difficult, but the individual may still be able to cope with them. It is at this level, however, that feelings of hopelessness can become so intense.”

Main symptoms of Depression are:  Extreme Lethargy. Disturbed sleep, early waking, difficulty getting to sleep and waking up tired after a normal night of sleep. Permanent sense of anxiety. Sensation of utter despair, hopelessness or uselessness of everything. Irritability and physical exhaustion.”</I>

My disease has contributed to lost friendships, dysfunctional family connections, loss of jobs, the inability to have more children, lost years, and nearly a loss of life.

There are many so-called cures and treatments for depression. But the only permanent and semi-hopeful treatment is psychiatric medications. I am dependent upon them. That is my life. I’m tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m tired of hiding my anxiety, fears, and despair and feelings of hopelessness from everyone so everyone will think I’m “normal.” But what is “normal” anyway?

I have been diagnosed with other disorders, but just like depression, they are a title, a label, a convenient name and code number for insurance companies to be able to determine whether they’re going to pay my health care bill or not.

Now, try going on about your life without health insurance. The very medications which sustain me and make me functional are a huge monthly expense which I cannot afford. The medicine management I need is unaffordable. The cost of therapy is unimaginable. Where does that leave me? I need the medications or I cannot function at some semblance of normalcy.

So, you know what, don’t talk to me about healthcare reform! Without care, my life completely falls apart and deteriorates right in front of my eyes. But, that’s only when I can recognize what is happening to me. I’m so tired of listening to everyone fight and argue about what they think should happen with healthcare reform. How about just listening to the stories of others and the difficult and nearly insurmountable tragedies of others before you decide what is best for everyone! Think about the plight of others and how glad you are that it’s not you.

I will fight this ugly demon called depression for the rest of my life. Until you have been in my footsteps, don’t tell me what I should do. You can forget about me, but you cannot forget about the homeless, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, the terminally ill, and the very loss of so many people who somehow withstood chronic pain, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and every other affliction that strikes innocent, loving, and caring people who did not ask for any of this.

Where is our compassion and our humility and our duty to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

(Originally written:  August 13, 2009)

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