I Don’t Care About “Bumming” You Out

Recently, I was told I posted too much about depression — that I was “bumming” people out. This comment not only infuriated me, but it hurt my feelings. How often do people like me — the chronically ill, depressed and others suffering with a mental disorder — deal with some inane comment like that. A comment that’s meant to shame and only discourage people’s truths.

I’m sorry, not sorry that I’m “bumming” people out. People need to know what it’s like to have a mental disorder. I’m done being told to “chin up,” “get some fresh air,” and “exercise” to cure my depression. That’s not helpful.

When you’re depressed and anxious, you can’t “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” In my case, when I’m going through a depressive episode, all I feel is pain. I get bone tired that no amount of sleep can alleviate. In my head, all I hear are criticisms of myself, how I’m a loser and unworthy. That nobody loves me. That I should kill myself. And the guilt — it’s overpowering. I feel guilty that I’m a depressed mom and that I have limitations that other moms don’t have. I feel guilty because I can’t control how I feel. I feel flawed, defective because growing up I came to understand that depression was something you could wish away with fresh air and sunshine. That strong people didn’t get depressed.

So, that makes me weak, right? That’s the stigma of depression talking.

I know better now. There’s nothing weak about me, or anyone who suffers with a mental disorder.

As I write this — and I’m not even experiencing a depressive episode — I’m purposely overeating, doing anything that will make the pain I feel go away. Overall, I’m doing great right now, but the thing about depression is that it lurks, always waiting for an opportunity to blanket my brain in doubt, fear and pain. And it’s so lonely. Not everyone understands and there are so many misconceptions about depression. My brain, my own brain, tells me to isolate from friends and family, making me even lonelier and in despair.

Luckily, I was able to go to a very good psychiatric hospital where specialists properly diagnosed me, prescribed the right medication and started me on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I’m so sick that doctors have to pass electric currents through my brain to trigger a seizure, resetting my brain. I have to do treatments every six to eight weeks, along with weekly therapy, just to feel almost normal.

My diagnoses are as follows:
Persistant depressive disorder (dysthymia)
Major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, severe
Generalized anxiety disorder
Binge eating disorder
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Opioid use disorder, moderate
Sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder, moderate

I’m one of the lucky ones because I can afford a high-dollar hospital and therapy. There are people who can’t. There are people who are suffering in silence, all because some people feel uncomfortable and “get bummed out” talking about mental illness. It’s bullshit. No one — and I do mean no one — should ever suffer in silence. There’s nothing embarrassing about struggling with depression. It’s not a weakness. It’s the same as having any other disease or disorder. So many people put on a happy face in order to hide their illness, and that too is bullshit. And that can be so dangerous if that person has suicidal ideation. People literally die because they don’t feel free to share how they’re feeling. The CDC reports that more than 48,000 people die each year by suicide. That number is surely to rise because of the pandemic.

It has to stop. I’m done being embarrassed by the fact that my brain is wired differently. I’m tired of feeling weak, when in reality I fight for my life every day. I’m strong as hell. I’m scrappy and I have grit. I’m proud of who I’ve become. And I will certainly NOT stop talking about depression or other mental disorders. I don’t give a fuck who I’m bumming out, because I’m also giving a voice to those who can’t quite find theirs yet.

I’m free from the embarrassment and guilt. I’m done with caring what other people think — the weight of their opinions is far too heavy. I will continue to lend my voice because I want others to be free too.

Please let us be free.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m coming off a very happy weekend. My parents drove down on Thursday to visit and it was so good to see them. I usually see them a lot more often but the pandemic has halted our travel. The kids were so excited and my parents were very happy with the new house.

It was also a good week. One of my blogs was published on The Mighty website! I have submitted two other blogs that they’ve decided to publish, so maybe it can be a regular thing. And because of that, my friend who’s a TV news producer said she’d like to do a story on my blog getting published and how important body positivity is to children, especially girls.

That’s really all for now. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. Stay in the light!

“Wow, you’re taking too many medications!”

One day I went to urgent care for an intractable migraine that just wouldn’t let up. Sometimes it can be tricky to treat them because I can’t have NSAIDS (due to gastric sleeve and taking Lithium). I was going over the meds I take and the nurse said, “Wow, you are on too much medication.”

Immediately my body went hot, I started to sweat and tears came to my eyes. I waiting until he left the room and then I cried. It was bad enough I had a severe migraine, I didn’t need to hear that. There was so much judgement there. And I went to one of the best psychiatric hospitals in the country, so I was confident that I was taking the right amount of meds. When the doctor came in later I was still crying but managed to pull it together to tell him that it was inappropriate for that nurse to say something about how many meds I was on. That I felt attacked because I am on a number of psychiatric drugs. In between tears and hiccups, I continued. I told him that judgement just adds to the stigma of depression and keeps people from seeking treatment because of it. 

The doctor assured me that’s not what he meant. That the nurse was not being judgmental, blah blah blah. But the damage had been done. How is there no judgement when a man says, “Wow, you’re on too much medication.” What was the point in that comment? How is that helpful?

I wanted to leave, but I needed pain relief badly. As soon as the meds they gave me for the migraine started to work, I told them I was better (which I sort of was) and left. 

I was embarrassed that I cried and made a big deal out of things. And the doctor, of course, told that man that I was upset. He did apologize but I just didn’t feel better about it. 

Looking back, I can’t believe I was embarrassed, because the truth is that I NEED those meds to fight depression. They help me function, be productive and help me be a better wife, mom and friend. Those medications (along with ECT and therapy) changed and saved my life. So fuck that guy. 

I’m proud that I sought help for my depression and that I take meds. And because I’m proud, I’m going to list my meds with no fear or shame. 

Synthroid- hypothyroidism
Rexulti – antipsychotic 
Lithium – mood stabilizer 
Nortriptyline- antidepressant 
Emgality – preventative med for migraines 
Trazodone – helps with sleep
Gabapentin – anti-anxiety 
Imitrex – abortive migraine med

I hope that none of you ever faces that kind of judgement and shame. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help to fight such a debilitating illness. One that steals your joy, makes you so fatigued you can’t get out of bed and one that causes so much mental anguish that sometimes you feel you’d rather die. 

Not a damn thing wrong with that. 

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and enjoy your family. I’m going to because my meds help me to do so. 

Stay in the light, friends. 

The Fatigue Is Real

One thing I hate being called is lazy. It’s never nice to hear that from anyone, but because of my chronic fatigue from depression, it stings even more.

I don’t think everyone knows just how bad the fatigue can be. Sometimes, when I’m deep in a depressive episode, I start to feel fatigued the minute I wake up. My body hurts — yes, depression can cause physical pain — and getting the kids ready for school seems like it’s an impossible task.

All my energy goes to getting them to school and when I get back home, I yearn to go to sleep again. So, I do.

When I wake up (again), my limbs are 50 pounds each. Thankfully, my housekeeper comes Monday through Friday, and she’s very understanding and not at all judgmental.

I do what I can while the kids are at school, and if anybody asks I always say I’ve had a busy day. I don’t like feeling the shame that comes along with depression. I can never shake it, though. I’ll even go to great lengths to be busy or appear to be busy, even if it runs me into the ground. I guess I’d rather be rundown than be called lazy. It’s stupid, but sometimes I feel like I don’t contribute — to society or to my family.

I’m so embarrassed of my limitations, but I shouldn’t be. It’s OK that I need to rest. It’s OK to rely on my housekeeper. It’s OK that I don’t work (outside the home).

I stay at home for my kids, sure. But I also stay at home because I don’t feel like I could keep a job now that my depression is as severe as it is. When I did work, I was constantly calling in and it created tension with my coworkers. I felt guilty and ashamed, which led to more downward spirals and more missed work.

Honestly, maintaining my depression and anxiety is a full-time job, and there’s no room to slack off without serious repercussions. Even if I do let up for just one day I could be enter a depressive episode and become suicidal.

I should be proud of my work to stay healthy. And I am, but it’s hard for others to understand how hard I’m working just to be OK, so I don’t share. That’s the thing about invisible illnesses, people just don’t get it, especially older generations. That and the stigma of depression make me stifle my triumphs when really I should be celebrating.

I need to let go of the shame. I’m going to remember that I’m taking care of myself not just for me but my kids and husband. They only benefit from me being healthy and happy. And when being happy and healthy becomes a consistent thing, a few days here and there where I can’t get out of bed aren’t going to be a big deal.

My family, my kids especially, will see me take care of myself and learn how to prioritize their own mental health. There’s great merit in that; my generation (Millennials) definitely wasn’t taught that. But we’re talking about it now. Millennials actually have higher rates of depression than any other generation. Read about that here.

Now that I think about it, there isn’t anything lazy about me — I grind harder than most, even if I do need a nap here and there.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

10 Ways to Help Someone with Depression

It can be challenging and frustrating having a loved one with major depression. You want to help them but are unsure how. Or maybe they tell you they don’t need help.

I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for two decades, and it’s still hard communicating my needs and what’s going on in my head. Sometimes the pain is so bad and my thoughts are so dark, I don’t want to share or I can’t find the words to accurately describe what I’m feeling. Not being able to do is a source of frustration for my husband, but he’s patient and never makes me feel bad about going through a depressive episode.

Patience is key. You should never try to shame your depressed loved one about what they’re going through or make them feel bad in any way — believe me, if they’re anything like me, they’re feeling enough guilt and like they’re a burden.

Those feelings can actually intensify their depression.

It’s hard navigating such a complex disease, so I’ve listed 10 ways to help someone with depression below:

  1. Read and learn — Educate yourself by visiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness website and the National Institute of Mental Health website
  2. Reject harmful stereotypes — Stereotypes fuel the stigma surrounding mental illness. Thoughts like “She’s lazy, she’s weak, she needs to just ‘Snap out of it,’ and that depression is ‘just sadness'” need to be eliminated. It’s hurtful and just makes people who suffer with depression feel worse.
  3. Check in with them often — When I get depressed, I tend to hide out in my house, but that’s not always good, especially now with coronavirus. I’m already isolated and going without contact from my friends makes me feel more alone and depressed.
  4. Encourage self care — In my opinion, practicing self care is the best thing one can do when they are depressed (aside from talking medications and going to therapy). I like to exercise, get massages, write and read books to feel better.
  5. Encourage therapy on a consistent schedule — Therapy can help people sort through their feelings and make healthier life choices. Talking about what’s going on just makes me feel better. I go weekly to see my therapist. My therapist isn’t cheap, but there are free or affordable resources available in my community (like at the college). Please check out what resources are available to you.
  6. Remind your loved one it get’s better and that they won’t always feel that way — It’s hard to realize that you won’t always feel so badly and life is so hard. I think it’s OK for someone to remind their loved one that all feelings are temporary.
  7. Listen — Sometimes we just need to vent (without any judgement).
  8. Be patient — Dealing with depression is frustrating for all, but one of the best things you can do is just be patient.
  9. Know that you can’t “fix” them — Depression is a completely treatable disease, but it is not curable. Unfortunately, most people with major depression will fight it for the rest of their lives.
  10. Know the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation — If you think a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you need to be direct and ask them things like, “Are you suicidal? Do you have a plan? Is there a gun in your home?” We can’t tiptoe around this subject; it may be uncomfortable to talk about, but it could save lives, too. Read about warning signs of suicide here. If your loved one is suicidal, do NOT leave them alone. Take them to the nearest emergency room. The doctors/nurses will assess the situation and your loved one will likely be transferred to an acute behavioral facility that can help. That’s my experience, anyway.

Helpful Things to Say:

  1. You’re not alone
  2. It gets better
  3. How can I help?
  4. You’re important to me
  5. I’m glad you’re in my life
  6. How can I support you right now?
  7. It’s OK to feel that way
  8. Your feelings are valid

Things to Avoid Saying:

  1. “Get over it, buck up or snap out of it” — People with depression can’t just “snap out of it.” Depression affects them both physically and mentally. Even the smallest of tasks are daunting, and sometimes, not possible. Aside from fatigue, people can have physical symptoms like joint pain, stomachaches, back pain and pure exhaustion. It takes a lot of work to manage depression, so expecting someone to come out of a depressive episode at the snap of your fingers doesn’t help anyone.
  2. “It’s all in your head” — Again, depression is a real disease, as real as any other. People experience mental and physical symptoms and telling someone it’s not real makes them feel bad and can sink them further into the hole of depression.
  3. “What do you have to be depressed about” — I hate this one. I live a great life; I’m very fortunate. I’ve always had everything I needed, but I also have this awful disease I have to contend with. It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I have and my life in general. I can’t control feeling depressed any more than someone can control having a heart attack.

I hope this helps. It has certainly helped my loved ones help me.

Stay in the light, friends.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

The past couple days have been hard. I’ve been extremely fatigued, irritable and I’ve fallen back on some unhealthy coping skills, such as binge eating. I don’t know why, but I’m just exhausted. It hurts to move.

Tomorrow I get another ECT, so maybe it’ll reset my brain and I’ll get back on track. Things were going well up until a couple days ago. I have a lot to look forward to.

We leave for San Antonio in just an hour. We’re staying the night in a hotel so we can get to the hospital bright and early. I know they help, but I really don’t like ECTs. Not a fun time for me.

Please think good thoughts and send light my way.

Here’s to next week. Hoping y’all have a good one, too.

Screw the Stigma of Depression

In my early 20s I had a conversation with two of my girlfriends about one of the girls’ boyfriend. She had made the comment he was taking antipsychotic medication for a mental illness.

In my infinite knowledge and wisdom, I said something along the lines of “You should dump him. That’s a red flag!” And I laughed. The other girl, a pharmacist, said, “Dude, you’re taking antipsychotics.” I stopped laughing. It was true. I had been dealing with depression for a few years by then yet I still laughed and judged another for doing the same thing I was. When you’re young and stupid, you’re young and stupid.

But there’s a bit more to that story. What I wrongly said and did — that’s the stigma of depression talking and it talks a lot, even to this day.

Did I truly think that guy was psychotic or “crazy?” I must have and must’ve thought he was less of a person for being mentally ill. I’m ashamed for that.

It doesn’t really make sense I would do that given that I was mentally ill and embarrassed to even tell my parents I was suffering.

Throughout my life, starting as early as middle school, I had exhibited signs of an anxiety disorder, and later in high school, depression. It all came to a head in college when me beloved grandmother died. Even then, when it’s understandable to experience great sadness, I kept my depression and anxiety to myself.

It would be almost a decade later when I finally admitted to my mom I struggled. There was really no way to hide it anymore because I was experiencing severe postpartum depression. When my youngest was 2, I had reached a breaking point and entered into an inpatient psychiatric program at The Menninger Clinic.

I hadn’t told many people that I was going but while I was there it suddenly occurred to me that I had nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

I tell this story because the stigma of depression is so powerful and far reaching. But it is so dangerous to perpetuate, and to not denounce the stigma. People literally die or don’t seek treatment because they think they’re weak, and that “it’s all in their head,” or because they’ve been told depression isn’t a “real disease.” Let me assure you, it is — a debilitating one.

Depression is a completely treatable disease, experienced by about 17 million American adults (stats from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 2017). What does it say about our society that instead of helping and supporting more than 17 million people, we’d rather buy into antiquated beliefs and nonsense that depression isn’t real or that it’s some choice to be made? Absolutely nobody would make that choice.

Depression is as real as any other disease. It’s devastating, chronic and sometimes very scary.

So, let’s stop the bullshit. Let’s educate people about mental illness and end the judgement that comes hand-and-hand with the diagnosis.

Below are hurtful stereotypes that perpetuate the stigma:

  • Happy people can’t have depression
  • People with depression aren’t mentally tough
  • Depression isn’t a real disease
  • Depression and sadness are the same thing
  • Antidepressants change your personality
  • Depression is all in your head
  • Depression is a choice
  • You can just “Snap out of it”

People can literally die when we help perpetuate these lies about depression. It has to stop. Help end the stigma by reading more about depression here.

Let’s do better and be better. There’s too much at stake not to.

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website here. You are not alone.

Dak Prescott Speaks Out on Brother’s Suicide, Gets Lashed

Just in case you missed it, Dak Prescott, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, did an interview with one of his brothers this week about the suicide of their other brother, Jace Prescott.

I read the interview and I was so encouraged that Dak came forward and discussed not only suicide but also his battle with depression. This is not talked about enough, especially among male athletes. The stigma surrounding mental illness is very strong among males because of the misconception that men have to be “tough guys.”

I can’t say enough about Dak’s strength and mental toughness — his can be seen both on and off the field. There is no doubt that the interview, airing soon on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, will save lives and help others to speak out. This is especially poignant because it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

“Mental health is a huge issue and a real thing in our world right now, especially the world we live in where everything is viral and everyone is part of the media,” Dak said. “[You] can get on social media and be overcome with emotions and thoughts of other people and allow that to fill in their head when things aren’t necessarily true — whether it’s getting likes on Instagram or something being viewed or getting bullied or whatever it may be. All those things create emotions and put things in your head about yourself or your situation in life that aren’t true. I think it’s huge. I think it’s huge to talk. I think it’s huge to get help. And it saves lives.”

And it is huge. So imagine my disgust when I learned that a Fox Sports newscaster had blasted Dak yesterday.

“When it comes to the quarterback of an NFL team, you know this better than I do, it’s the ultimate leadership position in sports,” Skip Bayless said. “You are commanding an entire franchise. … But you’re commanding a lot of young men and some older men. And they’re all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team. Because of all that, I don’t have sympathy for him going public with ‘I got depressed. I suffered depression early in COVID to the point where I couldn’t even go workout.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s Team.”

Sickening.

Skip Bayless should have sympathy. Dak is one of the most popular players in the NFL, who has never lost his focus despite his mother passing away and then his brother earlier this year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 48,000 people dying by suicide in 2008 (the most recent numbers). The suicide rate continues to climb and no doubt will shoot up while the effects of COVID are still being felt.

Skip Bayless should be ashamed of himself. Dak hasn’t lost focus because he has felt depression and suffered great losses, he has demonstrated courage, strength and he’s an example to the whole organization. He has stared the stigma of depression in the face and shown vulnerability. Not everybody can do that. But that’s who he is. He should be lauded for it, not condemned.

From what I can see, everybody has rallied behind Dak after Skip Bayless’ comments were reported. Fox Sports even apologized, which you can read below. Good job, Fox. There’s no room for hate and ignorance in this country, not anymore than there already is.

“At FOX Sports, we are proud of Dak Prescott for publicly revealing his struggle with depression and mental health,” the company said in a press release. “No matter the cause of the struggle, FOX Sports believes Dak showed tremendous courage which is evident in both his leadership on the Dallas Cowboys and in his character off the field. We do not agree with Skip Bayless’ opinion on Undisputed this morning. We have addressed the significance of this matter with Skip and how his insensitive comments were received by people internally at FOX Sports and our audience.”

It is my hope that we chip away at the stigma of depression and suicide. We do that by speaking about it. Silence only breeds more shame and nobody can heal in shame.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741.

You are no alone.

What It’s Like To Be Suicidal

Trigger Warning: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation, Death by Suicide

Preface: I don’t pretend to know what others go through during a depressive episode or why someone would want to die by suicide. These are solely my opinions, based on my experiences.

This is not an easy topic, nor is it a comfortable one to discuss, but that’s why we need to talk about it. The stigma surrounding depression and suicide leaves people feeling they can’t talk about it, and the silence is deadly. And so heartbreaking.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I think about Kate Spade‘s and Robin William’s suicides from years ago, and while most everybody was shocked, I really wasn’t surprised. In my opinion, the people who work the hardest, the most passionate and genuine, are the ones who struggle the most. I know it was hard for people to understand and I’m sure very scary that two such successful people could lose a battle to a little-understood enemy, that they could leave their seemingly happy lives and family, but it happens every day. Depression is an invisible illness that can completely devastate you, yet so many stay quiet because society as a whole doesn’t seem to want to understand. (Read about the history behind the stigma of mental illness here.)

It’s obvious that depression is misunderstood. It’s hard for people to understand that someone can make jokes and be depressed. Or that a person can be suicidal yet appear fine, even fully functional. Depression sufferers are good at hiding pain. I hid mine for years because I felt judged and ashamed. I felt like I was weaker than everybody else but that was the stigma talking.

I don’t get it. Is it ignorance or is society so fragile that people can’t handle knowing others are suffering so much? It’s 2020 — shouln’t we be more evolved, more enlightened?

It doesn’t matter why the stigma is there, it needs to end. In 2018 (the latest stats I could find) there were more than 48,000 recorded suicides, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. On average, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24-percent between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000, the highest rate recorded in 28 years.

Those numbers are from two years ago and have increased, no doubt. I imagine they will significantly increase this year due to coronavirus and the resulting problems, such as increased number of depressed persons from job loss, trauma, health concerns, etc.

But I digress. I’ve been suicidal more times than I can count. I haven’t talked about it a lot, but I should, especially since it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness month. The only way to normalize depression and suicide is to talk about it and help educate, so here I go.

My mind goes to a time where I was staying at my parents’ house. My parents had taken my two young kids to their lake house. My husband (who was back in Corpus) and I had gotten into a fight, I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember how alone I felt, so out of control. I had experienced bad postpartum depression a year before and it just lingered and worsened.

That night I was so sad, I could feel it in my bones. I was exhausted and it truly felt like I’d be unhappy forever. That argument sent me over the edge and all I could think about was I’d be better off dead, but I didn’t want to leave my babies. I didn’t want my mom to find me dead.

I ended up driving myself to the ER and was then sent to an acute behavioral hospital for two days.

Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. It’s painful to think about. I love my family more than anything and I don’t ever want to do anything to hurt them. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have more suicidal thoughts, but I don’t want to die. My brain is such a liar. Such a con artist, making me believe I’m not worth being alive. That my family doesn’t want me. It is my heart that saves me, helps me see through the bullshit. And that’s all it is, except it feels so real, and I completely understand how people could succumb to those big feelings and end their lives.

The people who die by suicide — they aren’t selfish, they were just sick and their illness just so happens to take over their brain. I think they just wanted to be free of the pain. Depression makes you hurt all over, and of course, the pain you feel mentally is pure anguish. It’s exhausting living with all that. I get it.

I feel like suicide could happen to anyone under the right circumstances. That’s why we need to eradicate the stigma and support those in need of mental health services.

Lives literally depend on it.

Risk Factors for Suicide Ideation and/or Attempts

  • Family history of suicide or child neglect
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • History of mental disorders, especially clinic depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Physical illness
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment

Read more about risk factors on the CDC website.

Warning Signs of Suicidal Ideation and Behavior

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves (like researching how to buy a gun)
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or being in unbearable pain
  • Increasing the use of alcohol and drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Extreme mood swings

Read more about warning signs and how you can help here.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, please seek immediately. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

There are better days ahead. Stay in the light, my friends.

Shame, Shame, Shame

Me with my Going to Therapy is Cool shirt

“You need to think positively.”

“You need fresh air and sunshine.”

“You’re lazy.”

I’ve heard all three of these statements in regards to my depression, and even though they are NOT TRUE, they make me feel such a sense of shame.

Shame (for me) is that awful feeling I get in the pit of my belly; it’s surrounded by humiliation and I feel less than. Unloved. Like something is seriously wrong with me. And really, there’s not a single thing to be ashamed of when you’re mentally ill. I didn’t give myself depression, or anxiety, or even avoidant personality disorder. But here I am 20-plus years into my diagnosis still feeling the occasional prong of shame and guilt.

When I was first diagnosed, I kept it a secret. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to admit to my family and most friends that I was flawed. I didn’t see anyone in my family struggling, so it felt like I was the only one suffering. And when I went to a psychiatric facility last year? Holy shit, was I embarrassed. But if going to the “mental hospital” is the worst thing people can say about me, then let them say it, scream it if they want.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking help, whether it be for a mental illness or diabetes. Taking care of myself enables me to take care of my two young children and husband, and to be there for my friends. To live a life I’m proud of. Ain’t no shame in that.

Far too many people suffer in silence and that’s so dangerous. There needs to be a shift — a societal shift of acceptance, understanding and no judgement. Why there is still a stigma surrounding depression and other mental illness is beyond me. The stigma that people perpetuate is what’s flawed. Not me. Not anyone else.

Depression is not a matter of smart and dumb, weak or strong. But it is a matter of life and death sometimes. And the silence surrounding mental illness only widens the gap between those suffering and the help they need. Shame about it feeds anxiety and low esteem. Anxiety feeds depression and depression feeds risky behaviors, drug/alcohol abuse or suicidal ideation. It’s an awful cycle and it’s very hard to break, especially if you can’t afford psychotherapy, medication or doctors’ visits.

It’s overwhelming to have depression, to say the least. It’s OK to stay in bed all day (to an extent), it’s OK to cry. Being angry about it is OK. Whatever emotion you choose, just know that depression can be treatable. You can live with depression. You can be happy. Some of us will work harder than others at it — also OK. Be proud that you are a fighter, I know I am.

I will continue to fight my disease until I die. I will be a voice for those who can’t speak. I will help normalize depression and there sure as hell no shame in that.