Mental, emotional and/or psychic pain is just as real and as debilitating as physical pain.
There is a history of mental illness in my family. There is addiction. There is depression. There’s eating disorders. And that’s just the stuff on the surface. I’ve had my own journey with depression and emotional suffering. During the deepest, hardest part of my illness I felt such a stigma surrounding medication and about getting help. Discussions about me and what I needed were excruciatingly painful and definitely added to my suffering. There was debate within my own family, among those closest to me about how to help. I assumed, and maybe wrongly, that my church thought the answer to my struggle was more prayer, more devotion, more clearing of ‘evil’ in my life. My doctors – I had several over many bouts – were not unanimous in their decisions about proper treatment. One was completely convinced that medication and medication for the rest of my life was in order. One later on was very, very reticent in giving his prescription, almost disapproving. My kind, helpful friends suggested various ‘natural’ remedies or ‘herbal’ medications. My own sister was adamant that medication and medication right now was necessary in order to be able to function and to prevent a descent into a life threatening condition. I felt shame. I felt I was being a bother. Each time, I denied it was as bad as it was. In my case, the onset of my ‘episodes’ were so gradual that I would be firmly entrenched in darkness before I realized it was happening again. My life would become more and more difficult to manage and my anguish about everything was crushing.
I have since experienced many permanent changes to my inner, mental landscape. Beginning with the help of medication and then adding counseling, I educated myself about my ‘condition.’ I discovered and practice mental exercises and practical cognitive tools. I’ve made permanent and important changes in my thinking about myself and the world at large. I have pleasantly discovered that I have choices and that I choose what I make things mean. I make healthy lifestyle choices. All of these have contributed to the changing of my inner landscape – eliminating or avoiding potential ‘cliffs.’ Consequently, I am medication free. Am I saying these are the answers for everyone? Has it been easy? Has it been quick? Is my life perfect? No, absolutely not. It’s been my personal journey. The ways to navigate one’s inner landscape are infinite. I know for sure it helps to talk about it. I know for sure that the pain, if not totally stopped can at least be eased, and in a way that is not tragic. Will my depression return? I sincerely hope not, but if it does, I will recognize the signs and I will reach out for all the help that I can.