For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived with an illness that for the most part goes unseen.
To this day it is still difficult for friends and family to wrap their head around because on the outside: I look Ok.
It’s an invisible illness. I didn’t catch it, and it wasn’t something that just happened to me one day out of the blue. As a child, there were subtle signs. As I grew older, they became more severe when the illness attacked. For almost 20 years I never really understood what was going on in my head or why, and my family never wanted to address the real issue. It’s not their fault, but in some ways, I suppose they felt responsible. So they just chose to live in denial about it, hoping it would go away… It didn’t. On the verge of turning 20, I knew it was a life or death decision for me at that time, more so than ever before. So I finally sought out proper medical help.
I am a person who suffers from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), an invisible illness that if left untreated is the number one cause for the vast majority of suicides around the world.
For over 34 years it’s lived in my DNA, I am pre-dispositioned to it due to genetics on both my mother and my father’s side of the family. It is a part of who I am, and I’ve learned to live with and accept it.
It wasn’t always easy, though, and for almost a decade it was trial and error trying to find ways to help maintain a better way of life. I’ve become very good at wearing masks when I’m feeling below average now. And while it’s not always rainy days, I can’t predict or control when it will happen. The hardest part is that when it does, I have very few people I can turn to because no one understands, and most are too scared to want to. I usually just withdraw from society till it passes, which can sometimes take months. I become a recluse and during these times just focus my energy on my work and keep out of harm’s way as best I can.
MDD has not only affected me with the depression but also a variety of other disorders through the decades as a side effect of the illness itself. I’ve had periods of anorexia, bulimia, self-harming, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia… the list goes on.
MDD is now the cause of many physical ailments in my body’s system.
I have not been 100% in all areas of my physical health in over five years. It is very debilitating, and that in itself is quite depressing to think about because I can’t control this, and for a huge chunk of my youth, I was very physically active. Not so much these days and certainly not by choice. The only time I am at my best is when I’m working, as it distracts me from myself and allows me to be in someone else’s shoes.
In many ways being an actress is my best medicine, and for that, I am truly thankful.
On my best days, I am a ray of light, loving life, being goofy and “normal”. So for people who know me, these periods of depression are always hard for them to take in.
The most common question I get asked is;
“What do you have to be depressed about?.”
And yes, I have contemplated suicide more times than I’d care to admit. The good news is that I’m almost 35 years old and I can proudly say that I am still here. As morbid as that sounds, surviving my bouts of depression for over 30 years is a major win against the illness. The fight continues.
I know suicide is an unpleasant word to hear. It makes people feel very uncomfortable, but we need to talk about it. WE need to bring this subject out into the spotlight so that those suffering are not afraid to ask for help. It is perplexing for the average person to comprehend, I get it.
For people living with mental illness, suicide is not so scary, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. For some, it is a kind of peace that we can only hope to dream of during our darkest days. In some extreme cases, suicide is not so much about giving up it’s just the only way out of the suffering. That is terrifying to admit out loud because I am someone who understands this. This is why I am a part of The Life After Project.
The sad truth is that millions of people suffer from a mental illness and most suffer alone. The Life After Project provides for those who are suffering a safe network to be supported, to be heard, and to be given the understanding they deserve. After all, there is Life After: after the struggle, after the depression, after the breakdown, the emptiness, the hopelessness… there is LIFE to be LIVED.
But when you are drowning in the depths of an abyss of sorrow, it is hard to remember that this too shall pass and good days are waiting to be enjoyed. Instead, there is just a cloud of embarrassment hanging over our heads after the fall because of judgments, because we have lost sense of ourselves- like we had a choice or could help it.
So what can we do?
Overcoming mental illness is not an option. We don’t have the luxury of going to rehab for 30 days and detoxing it from our system. It doesn’t work like that. Our only hope is that it is a temporary feeling, or for someone like myself we find safe ways to manage and cope with it. But I will say this, coping is not the same as living. Coping is not good enough.
It is an exhausting battle we fight alone and something more needs to be done. When it comes to mental disorders, there is a lack of understanding amongst society as a whole. It is time for people to get seriously educated on the matter and give it the awareness it deserves. WE as a society must remove the stigma that has been placed upon it.
Depression is a serious illness, and more education needs to be given to the public about it so that the awareness is substantial and unquestionable. Perhaps then, those like myself who suffer won’t feel ashamed or embarrassed anymore. Maybe then, together, WE can find better ways to live with it rather than just cope through life.