Learning to love all of your parts… even the depressed ones.

4 Apr

Last year when we began planning Friends With Benefits for The Royal, I felt that aside from raising funds, it was really important that our event start a conversation.   I hoped that by talking about my own experiences with depression and the more personal reasons I wanted to raise money for The Royal’s Jennie James Depression Research Fund might help make others feel more comfortable sharing their experiences… and it did.  Throughout the process of planning this event last year, and now for a second year, I have heard from so many people who have struggled with a mental health issue personally, or supported a friend or family member who is struggling.  It is so common and yet it seems that many of us are still so afraid to talk about it to friends, to our employers, and even sometimes to ourselves.

 

In my third year of University I was a patient at the Royal while attending classes at Carleton.  I was being treated for recurrent depression and working with a psychiatrist and social worker to try to get out from under the weight of the depression and anxiety I felt were crushing me.  During that time I made few friends at school.  The once outgoing, friendly side of me had been overshadowed by my illness and my worry that getting close to anyone would force me to reveal that I was being treated at a hospital.

 

For years after that most severe bout with depression in my early 20s I didn’t really talk about that time in my life.  I told myself that it wasn’t relevant to who I was or was becoming.  I was entering the working world and I was worried that disclosing my illness would put me at a disadvantage: maybe I wouldn’t be seen as competent and reliable, or maybe it would put me behind for a promotion. 

 

I became so good at concealing this part of myself that I pretty much stopped admitting to myself that I had an illness.  I had taken myself off medication without medical supervision and I wasn’t keeping up regular medical appointments.  I was coasting.

 

As it does, the depression always lurked there in the background.  My anxiety and stress manifested itself in pretty obvious ways here and there in the way I dealt with tough issues at work or how deeply regular the ups and downs of life impacted me.  In the fall of 2011 the depression came back like a wave again.  Suddenly it was back: the feelings of hopelessness, the overwhelming sadness and anxiety and the constant exhaustion. 

 

I needed help.  With my wonderful parents I worked out a plan and was able to connect with outpatient services at the Civic Hospital and get back on a treatment plan.  I made the decision to go back on medication and to work with a psychologist regularly to help me better manage my illness.  After 10 years of coasting I began to understand that my depression is a chronic condition that I will always need to be aware of.

 

By coming to this realization I have slowly been able to accept that my illness is part of who I am, and in a way, part of what makes me great.  I am more sensitive to life’s ups and downs than most but as a result I think I’m a more compassionate person.  My struggles have helped me to better support others.  It has forced me to do the work that I need to do to be a healthier, happier and more confident.  It has also lead me down a path towards new opportunities, some that I never imagined for myself.

 

I’m not nearly as scared any more to disclose that I am a person with a mental illness.  I have told my new employer, new friends and hey – for good measure I’ve even told some of the men I’ve dated!  For me the shame lies in being intolerant or inflexible in one’s views about mental illness, it does not lie in being honest about all of your parts – even those parts that might feel a little sad or anxious sometimes.

 

I hope you’ll join me on May 10, 2013 at Friends With Benefits for the Royal so that we can continue the conversation to promote awareness and understanding, and to reduce the social stigma around depression.

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One Response to “Learning to love all of your parts… even the depressed ones.”

  1. Emily Maloley April 4, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    I am so amazed and in awe of you and whole heartedly agree your compassion is 10 fold. Keep up the AMAZING work my friend!

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