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I’m writing this as I’m coming out of yet another “episode”. I’ve had them for years, but I thought since starting a new medication I was done with them. Turns out that was a lie. For the first time in 2 years, I was stuck. I was sucked into the deepest depths of depression and anxiety with no end in sight.

I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. But anxiety…this was new to me. And with both combined, I was out for the count. To deal with depression alone is one thing; I feel sad and alone and down on myself. But to add anxiety to the mix, where it’s hard for me to even leave my own home, brings on troubles I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy. When I get in these episodes, life stops. I can’t focus, I can’t function. I can’t live. Simple normalities, we take for granted everyday, have to be done for me. This past week my husband has had to wash my hair, groom me, feed me…all but bathe me. It’s been a trying week for him too and I’m so thankful for his patience.

I don’t know how or why these episodes started. But according to my doctor, anxiety and depression are like injuries; every once in a while the pain from an old injury flares up. Depression and anxiety are the same. Every once in a while it rears it’s ugly head. When this happens I become helpless. What’s even worse is that no one seems to understand. They don’t get it. Unless they have dealt with some kind of mental illness, they don’t understand what I’m going through. And that got me thinking…

Mental health is never taken seriously. Not even by doctors. Instead of doubling my dosage of medication, help me find ways to cope when an episode comes about. When you’re depressed, people tell you to “cheer up” or “it’ll get better”. When you have anxiety they tell you to “calm down” or “don’t stress about it”. But it’s so much easier said than done. It’s much deeper than cheering up or calming down. The sad part is the happiest of people can be the most depressed. Before I had this episode life was great! I couldn’t have been happier. And don’t get me wrong, life is indeed still great, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell depression and anxiety were issues I frequently dealt with. Even during the first few days of this current episode my mom and husband said I seemed fine. That’s what this disease wants you to think. It mirrors happiness so no one will ask the tough questions. They won’t find out what the truth is. But people need to know the truth so they know how to help. It’s no wonder mental illness takes the lives of so many people. It’s hard to feel like you have a voice when your voice is buried by so many falsehoods pretending to be reality. It really is a dark place to be in. For a moment I thought I was going to be stuck in that dark place, which would have been awful. But I finally feel myself coming through. And more now than ever, I want to be an advocate. How can we give mental health a bigger voice? How can we normalize it when so many people don’t feel normal under its spell? How can we make this a common conversation?

For me, I know I would feel better if people didn’t look at me like I was crazy when trying to explain what I feel. I wish people were more open to the fact that some of us have things going on inside our heads that we simply can’t control. It’s not easy to share how we feel; that we feel down or at a low point. Having someone to just listen and not judge could make a world of difference. Be that difference. Keep an open dialogue. Sometimes all we need is someone to talk to and hear us out. Keep the conversation going. A simple conversation can keep another person alive.

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