I’ve had psychiatric care. I have, in fact, been treated for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) on and off since around 1988. I think I probably needed treatment long before that, but my parents didn’t recognize the problem and neither did I.
I’ve largely had help as an outpatient, but I did spend one week in a hospital after a serious suicide attempt in 1988. There was another, longer stay in 1991 when I realized that I was headed into a suicidal state again. I’ve also attended a part-time, outpatient psychiatric program that was very helpful. I see a therapist regularly for talk therapy and take antidepressants. In 2016, I had a course of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), too. I spend a fair amount of time on my own reading, journaling, meditating, practicing gratitude, and otherwise working to improve my state of mind. Every year or so I re-read this book and revisit the meditations included on its CD: The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Book & CD)
My depression seems to largely be related to being raped when I was a child. It’s very likely that other factors, such as a genetic predisposition to depression, contribute to the issue, but the history of sexual abuse seems to be the most significant contributor for me. I also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and I had an eating disorder at one time. All of my diagnoses are pretty typical for abuse survivors of any kind.
I have come to accept that I’ll probably always need anti-depressants. I monitor my depression levels, and if I seem to be headed into the trough again I try to figure out whether there’s something in my life that’s contributing to the depression. I improve the situation if possible or accept it if that isn’t possible. My partner is great about helping me through those times, but sometimes I also require a medication adjustment.
CPTSD and anxiety give me more ongoing trouble than depression. I have a fairly low tolerance level for noise and crowds, which is unfortunately exacerbated by fibromyalgia. I still get flashbacks and nightmares at times (it seems to be a cyclical thing). I completely avoid reading any explicit recounts of any kind of rape or sexual abuse. I have tranquilizers that I can take when necessary for those and panic attacks, but I’m wary of their addiction potential. I try to use mindfulness techniques to calm myself, instead.
Few people realize how differently you’re treated once anyone learns that you’ve been in a mental hospital or had any other sort of psychiatric care. I know most of you think “Oh, I’d never do that. I know mental health treatment isn’t so strange.” But really now, look deeper. You back off a little when you learn something like that about new acquaintances, don’t you? Almost like there’s a chance of contagion?
You would be absolutely stunned to learn how many people you see and interact with on a daily basis have, at some time, had some sort of psychiatric treatment, whether it was talk therapy or antidepressants or the occasional anti-anxiety drugs. In most cases, you’ll never know unless they do tell you, because they are normal, functional people. You’ll never have reason to know unless they tell you.
The stigma regarding mental health will remain until we bring the whole topic out of the closet. It’s the people who refuse to seek help when they need it who go off the deep end and start shooting children in playgrounds! Getting help for mental health problems is no different from taking insulin if you’re a diabetic, or getting your broken leg set so it’ll heal properly. Do you take antidepressants? You hide that from most people, don’t you? Do you wear glasses or contacts? When’s the last time you hid that? Needing your vision or your body’s chemistry corrected isn’t a moral issue, but simply a fact of life. So is seeking help for depression or similar problems. Please get help if you need it!
There was a time when I did resist being honest about depression. I didn’t want to be open enough with my therapist to even get the help I needed. I resisted so much, in fact, that I tried to kill myself. I woke up in ICU a few days later, throat sore from being intubated, feeling generally nasty from having my stomach pumped and being given charcoal. My first coherent thought was “Damn, that was stupid!” If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please take my word for it: Don’t. Get help. You aren’t irretrievably broken. You are simply ill, and you can get better. It is worth the work to do so.
If you’ve been through some sort of mental illness, talk about it. Be open about it. Treat it just as you would treat having survived cancer or a broken back or anything else. Don’t let anyone shame you about it, and don’t be silent. You may be able to help someone else through your openness.