Friday, March 6, 2015

I Wish I had Cancer

*Disclaimer: I do not wish cancer or any other sort of medical condition on anyone. I know first hand what cancer is capable of, and it's horrendous. In the case of this blog post, cancer is being used metaphorically. You can interchange it with heart disease, diabetes, or any other sort of disease/condition and the end point is still the same.

It's an awful thing to say, isn't it? To wish you had cancer? This awful monster of a disease that sucks the life right out of you. Yet I find myself thinking it nearly every single day. Cancer is something people can related to. It's widely talked about and researched and studied and (sometimes) cured. It's tangible.

Cancer doesn't frustrate people. When you say you're tired or sick or not feeling well or just not in a good frame of mind, people understand and are sympathetic. With depression, most people assume you're simply sad. "Come on, you're fine." "Are you really that tired? You slept like 14 hours." "You don't look depressed to me." "Seriously what's wrong with you? You used to love [insert hobby here]."  No I'm not fine. Yes I really am that tired. What, exactly, do people with depression look like? I'm also fully aware I used to enjoy things that I can't seem to enjoy now. That's the thing: I KNOW. Just because my brain may not be sending out enough dopamine doesn't mean it's not working. That doesn't mean that I still can't think for myself. And that definitely doesn't mean that your words aren't hurtful.

You say the word "depression" and people cringe. I've seen it happen too many times. They may not mean to or do it intentionally, but they do. They look at you differently, they judge you. As if you're carrying around dozens of razor blades and at any moment will use all of them simultaneously to cut various parts of your body off. There are people out there who understand, but they are few and far between. Though few they may be, I am immensely thankful for them. However, I realized this week that my greatest fear with depression is that the few people who are understanding and supportive will grow frustrated with me. That I'm not getting better "fast enough" or that I won't get better at all. Depression isn't really curable. It can be tamed, it can be molded into something different, it can be learned from, but it is always still there. Lurking just around the corner, waiting to come out and snatch you, kicking and screaming into the night. Or maybe you don't kick and scream. Maybe you welcome it as an old friend.

I remember years ago before I got married, I worked for a small mom and pop business. They didn't provide medical insurance for their employees but made arrangements for an insurance company to get in contact with those of us who needed insurance. They called me one day (while I was at work) to ask me various medical questions and to list my medications. When I listed Celexa (which I was on at the time), the lady on the other end paused. I heard her clicking her pen rapidly then tapping it loudly on her desk.
"And what is this medication for?" She knew very well what it was for judging by her response.
"Depression." I said strongly. I didn't know enough to know that I should, apparently, be embarrassed.
"And this has been diagnosed?"
At this point I grew frustrated with the conversation. "Obviously it's been diagnosed or I wouldn't have the medication."
Her long nails click against the keys of her keyboard. "And have you been cured?"
At this point in our very awkward conversation I laughed out loud. This small five letter sentence has haunted me ever since. As if taking this one tiny pill every day will cure me of the overwhelming desire to sink into a dark hole, never to reemerge. I know some people call them "happy pills," but to me that's insulting. They do not make me happy. They keep me from going insane. Nobody talks about that, though. At the end of the phone call I was told that because of my medical condition I would be charged an extra $40 a month for my already crazy expensive insurance which covered very little. I was making just above minimum wage at this point (I may have been making actual minimum wage, I don't remember), so it was frustrating to know that nearly five hours of my already tiny paycheck was going to this insurance company just because they didn't want to take the time to understand and get to know me and my illness. The whole situation bothered me so much that I eventually stopped taking the medication (cold turkey) and didn't have the courage to go back to the doctor for depression issues until seven years later.

My goal in life isn't to be cured of all depression. I know that isn't going to happen. My goal is, however, to get to a place in my life where I'm happy enough with who I am and the way my brain works so I can learn from my experiences and move on. To let myself heal and grow and become the person that I was supposed to be my entire life.