Depression is a disease, not a crutch.
Many diseases get major attention and major funding for research. Their existence is not questioned and their status as a legitimate health condition is secure. Very few people, for example, would dispute the fact that cancer is real. People respect the havoc it can inflict on someone.
Mental illness deserves the same respect.
People who suffer from it are less likely to receive proper treatment, and less likely to share that they have it. This is not because there are no proven medicines and/or treatments that are effective. The past 30 years have seen depression medicines like Prozac seemingly work miracles with patients.
But the stigma and lack of understanding about depression and other mental illnesses relegate it to a less lofty status. Society has not caught up with the reality of depression as a disease. So why do I feel responsible for my depression?
And why am I afraid I will use it as a crutch?
When I first got out of the hospital, I was a man on a mission. I wanted to know everything there is to know about the disease I have. I wanted to know the causes of depression, the warning signs of it’s coming, and the things I can do to address it before I descend into the abyss.
This led me to different web sites, support groups, and to the purchase of books related to depression. All of this has given me the tools to better face depression. It has given me better questions to ask. It has given me new ways of thinking about my choices.
I should never lose sight of the possibility’s life has to offer. That was what put me in the hospital. I could no longer see a way forward. And when I stop participating in my own self-care, I am yielding the floor to depression and whatever it wants.
And always, depression wants me to isolate myself from those that can help me, those in my support group, those with better ways of thinking.
I am not using depression as a crutch.
Yet lately I have been procrastinating about my self-care. Maybe I’m still hung up on the name, or maybe that is an excuse not to do things for myself. Am I back to not believing I deserve to be better? I know I still have work to do, to understand how to live a full life without depression stealing the show.
I can see where I could just give up and say, “I can’t do it, I have depression.”
Now that would be using depression as a crutch. I am not doing that. I am in control of my attitude towards events and how I think about circumstances. And I am my best advocate for a better life.
I am not making up this disease.
Nor am I making up the effects it has had on my life. Plus, I am not making up the guilt I feel for things I have done. That seems to be where my not shoulding on myself falls apart. Because in the end, I did, said, or didn’t do something, I am the one who is acting out the drama. Depression is the acting coach in the wings, tossing me my line when I forget what to say.
So, I must accept responsibility for my actions.
But that doesn’t mean that I must follow depressions lead going forward. I can make better decisions and feel empowered. Using depression as a crutch is giving in to it. After 43 years, I will not go back down that road. I am facing depression, calling its name, and making sure it knows I know it is there.
People live full lives even with major diseases.
They live with diabetes, high blood pressure, and today, many cancers are treated into remission or even eradicated completely from people. My dog Rikki has a form of cancer and our Vet is treating it with low dose chemotherapy pills. In a months’ time, the treatment has reduced the size to a cancerous lump significantly, with no side-effects.
People live with mental illness and depression, too.
And I am ready to do that. To live with depression, knowing that I have depression, it doesn’t have me.