Depression as an illness

Several days ago I stumbled across this conversation on Twitter:



The last comment was the one that particularly struck me. As I mentioned a few days ago, I feel like parts of my life are a bit off track and that I have a hard time sticking with some of the plans I come up with to change that. It frustrates me immensely! Why can’t I just pull myself together and live the life I want to live? Why do I keep being so tired and having days with no energy and on and on and on.

But that last comment reminds me why. I’m tired and have low energy sometimes because I have insomnia which makes it hard to sleep, even with medication. I have days with no energy because even with my medication, depression can do that to you. If I had chronic pain or some sort of physical illness I would be understanding with myself and my limitations. But because depression is, quite literally, all in my brain, the very thing I’m using to try to change myself is the thing that is ill and holding me back.

That isn’t to say I can change to be the person I want to be and I can’t still live the life I want to live because I have depression. It means that I need to have patience and understanding with myself. I’m being treated for an illness. I have an illness. That illness comes with certain limitations and restrictions some days.

It’s a paradigm shift that I still haven’t completed yet. I haven’t yet made the shift from “I have a mental illness so I take medication to fix it and fix me” to “I have a mental illness so I take medication to help me function but it isn’t a miracle pill and I still have to live and deal with the effects of the illness just like someone with diabetes or chronic pain would.” It’s a hard shift to make because as a society, we’re still very much in the mindset that mental illness is something you can “get over” and “get better” from. That isn’t to say that people don’t, but they’re often people who have periods of depression or anxiety and then whatever is triggering it ends and they move on. When you have chronic depression, as I do, it’s exactly that: chronic. It may lessen, but it doesn’t completely go away. There is no miracle fix that makes it all better. It’s something that is managed, not cured.

And so that’s something I need to keep in mind as I’m going about my life. My depression won’t hold me back, but it may mean I need to take a slightly different route to get where I want to go in life. And when it sidelines me, I need to be as patient and understanding with myself as I would if it were any other illness, not get frustrated and wonder why I can’t just pull myself together and get over it. I need to love myself enough to do that.


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