After a particularly bad day, one of the clinicians in the hospital said something to me. Healing from depression is like having a bruise. The only way to make a bruise better is to treat it with care and wait for time to pass and the body to mend itself. But sometimes, we're more aware of our bruise than other times. It could be that something in our lives brushes against it enough to make us notice and wince. Other times, it could be something poking the bruise outright; in which case, it would hurt. A lot. She told me my day was the latter example. That doesn't mean I'm not healing, she said. It just means I'm not fully healed. And that, like all things, takes time.
So I'm here today to update you on my treatment, should you wish to know. I went into this hospitalization thing feeling very scared, very overwhelmed. My first few days were close to horrible. I couldn't stop shaking, couldn't stop crying, couldn't stop getting caught up in my head. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, and I had no clue if this program was going to work for me. I even told my case worker I felt like this. Because I have a case worker. And a social worker, and a therapist, and a psychiatrist.
But I decided I want to get better, so I've stayed in the program. I've made progress. I have fewer nightmares. I haven't been raped, killed, been bombed, been attacked by dogs or coyotes or bears. Once, I got attacked by a moose, but it wasn't that bad because it was so clearly a dream and I had been trying to save the moose from people who were attacking it, which was nobel and right.
I'm much more open in group sessions now. Actually, group sessions are the best part of my day. These people. They're normal, everyday people. They are people that I want to be friends with outside of group (but the program forbids it), so we are friends within the program. We talk. We read packets about issues depressed people experience. We exchange stories, both happy and sad. We know what each other likes to do outside. We share many of the same hobbies and activities. We also know which meds we're on, if substance abuse is a problem, and who's been in a coma from a suicide attempt.
And it all feels very normal. I'm telling you this because I want you to understand that it is normal. We have an illness, and we're working to overcome it. We don't like to be judged by family or friends because we're depressed or anxious. We notice when a room quiets when we enter. We notice when you stare at us, wondering if we're going to break. We notice when someone cuts off the end of a joke because the punchline has something to do with a knife and, 'Oh my god, she took a knife to her wrist, if I finish this joke I'm being insensitive.' We notice when you text our loved ones instead of us or lean in and whisper, "How *is* she *doing*?"
It's because mental health does not *feel* normal. I want it to be. This is me saying it needs to be. If you can talk about the time you were in the hospital because you had pneumonia, went through physical therapy because of a bad car accident, and if you feel comfortable answering all your friends' questions about those incidents BUT you don't feel comfortable asking me questions about my mental health, it hasn't been normalized yet. Please, help me feel normal. Ask me about my treatment. Do so in front of others. Let's make everyone see that I am--and people like me--are still intelligent functional human beings with a family, and friends, and hobbies, and careers. So I've got a mental illness. So what? You broke your arm. So what?
And my diagnosis: major depressive disorder (recurrent, severe, without psychotic features), generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder.