by Lillian Csernica on October 10, 2014
Hello. My name is Lillian, and I have a mood disorder. My precise diagnosis is Major Depressive Disorder.
What shall we talk about today? How I got better? Which meds I’m taking? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy? The list of people to whom I feel grateful for my ongoing recovery? Why my mental health is such a greater priority for me than my physical health?
Let’s examine that last one. I hate exercise. Sweating is something I try to avoid. I am a writer, so I have a sedentary job. I have a sweet tooth, which is the polite way of saying I’m addicted to sugar. The result? I am seriously overweight. This affects my blood pressure, my heart, my pancreas, my joints, my lungs, and my mental health. Lately more than ever I’ve been losing a daily struggle to get my butt out of my desk chair, go outside, and walk around for thirty minutes. Rainy weather is coming, God willing, so I’d better get out there and enjoy Autumn while the leaves are still on the trees.
Mens sana in corpore sano, right? Since I do have a psychiatric diagnosis, does that mean I have an unhealthy mind in an unhealthy body? Ick. Put it that way and it sounds both ominous and disgusting. Suppose the day came when I managed to achieve a strong, healthy body at chart weight, all toned and nourished on a healthy diet. Suppose I also managed to keep my depression at bay so it couldn’t sneak up on me in the quiet of the night and stir up distressing thoughts that compel me to find comfort in sugar. Suppose I managed to achieve both of these arduous tasks at once. Who would I be?
Think about it. It would take me at least a year of dedicated effort to make a significant impact in terms of weight loss. There will be struggles. There will be plateaus. There will be backsliding, because my life is chaos and frustration and sorrow and anger day in and day out. I’ll be trying to ride two bicycles at once, and I’ve never learned to ride even one successfully.
This is one big reason Getting Cured is so damn scary. We know we won’t be the same people when we come out the other end of the Recovery Process. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? We’ll have learned the skills we need to work through the problems and triggers and temptations. (Mind you, I’m talking only about depression. I know very little about diagnoses involving organic conditions such as bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.) Change is hard! Change is uncomfortable. Change takes strength that depression drains away. We fight every day just to hold what little ground we’ve gained, right? Making progress is like trying to climb up a sand dune.
How does that make you feel?
This is the classic question of the helping professions. How does the prospect of becoming the person that I could be if I really could get out of my own way make me feel? Tired. Overwhelmed. Discouraged. Odds are good the me that I am now would hate the Perfect Me. There is no real perfect, but you see my point. I’m struggling against a perception gap here. I can’t even accurately envision what the Perfect me would look like or how she would act. I do know this. My family wouldn’t like the Perfect Me either.
A family is an equation. Here’s my basic equation: Daddy + Mommy + Son + Son = Family. Then my sister came to live with us. Daddy + Mommy + Auntie + Son + Son = Bigger Family. If I was to more accurately define the elements of the equation, I’d get something on the other side of the equals sign that gave a truer picture of life at my house. I’m going to keep it simple.
Exhausted Daddy + Depressed Mommy + Frustrated Auntie + Invalid Son + Autistic Son = Stressed Out, Complicated Family.
If you’re looking for some words of wisdom, for some cheerful, hopeful statement that will wrap up this post, I hate to disappoint you but I don’t have any. That’s pretty much the point of this post on this day. When you’re struggling with a mental illness, every moment of every day can become a battle. You’re lucky if you can scrape together the energy, focus, and determination to get through that one moment, and the one that comes next.
Today, on World Mental Health Day, let’s all join hands. Crazy or sane, we’re all in this together. Let us remember that we are not alone.