This week I happened across some blog posts about depression. In several of the posts the authors were completely honest about how disabling mental illness can be. They also talked about how misunderstood they were and how their loved ones didn’t understand why they couldn’t just “get up and get over it.” It was an interesting read for me because none of these people suffered physical health problems and they are at times more disabled then I am. And yet, there is less understanding about mental illness then there is about my misunderstood physical illnesses. It was another reminder to me that a lot of people go through life completely misunderstood and that I need to do a better job of extended my empathy to others.
It was interesting to read about how much I have in common with those who deal with mental illness. We are both judged by our friends, family, society, and even our doctors. We feel ashamed of our inadequacies and are afraid to ask for help because of our fear of rejection, and our quality of life is entirely at the mercy of our doctor who controls our medication. There is also an interesting connection between physical and mental illness that no one fully understands. Several people mentioned that when they are in a deeply depressed state they have very physical symptoms. I knew about the tiredness that often comes with depression, but several people mentioned pain as well. Conversely, people with physical health problems tend to feel more “psychological distress” than healthy people. My answer to that is “duh” of course people get depressed when their health tanks and their life falls apart, but I understand it’s a “first the chicken or the egg” kind of situation.
It was validating to me to read about other people’s struggles with depression and realize that we all face internal battles. In general I am not an up and down person, my moods tend to be pretty stable, but I do have times when I wonder how I am supposed to go on like this for the rest of my life. I have times when I get so tired of dealing with illness and I wish everyone and everything would go away and leave me alone for once. Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like if I was “allowed” to be sick and actually take care of myself instead of other people. I’ll probably struggle with this periodically from now on (it seems to be the nature of the beast), but I learned a lot about internal battles by reading about what other people deal with.