I can’t, I have Depression!

Recently I engaged in a discussion with a fellow blogger somewhere (thanks meds, can’t remember who or where!) about knowing somebody who uses their illness as an excuse to get out of doing things. Since then I’ve been thinking quite extensively about it, as it’s something I’ve dealt with for a large part of my life. A close family member suffers from depression and they played a large part in my own failure to accept my issues.

For the longest time I thought that maybe I was just like them – wallowing in self-pity or inventing an “illness” that was a convenient excuse to hide my own shortcomings behind. I thought there was nothing wrong with me that a good kick in the ass wouldn’t cure. That I needed to stop making myself out to be suffering from anything other than weakness and get on with my life. 

Once I successfully cleared the hurdle of seeking a diagnosis and accepting my label as a depressive, this person’s presence actually became a more positive one. Actually, that’s not true. It’s more accurate to say that their presence became less negative. I don’t mean that they changed into a supportive person or shared some insights into their actions that gave me a lightbulb moment of clarity. In fact, this person doesn’t even know about my diagnosis. They continued on much as they always have – living in their bubble of self-absorption and self-reference.  What has changed is my perception of them and the influence they have on me and my emotions. 

These days I hear the usual “oh I could never do that” and “I had such potential and then the awful life I have had happened” and instead of anger, resentment and guilt I feel pity and more importantly I feel motivated. I spoke recently about the concept of being a high-functioning depressive and what that means to me. I guess I left out a major driver in my life – my determination not to turn into this negative, self-absorbed person who has had such a negative influence on my mental health to date. 

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I can’t, I have Depression!

5 thoughts on “I can’t, I have Depression!

  1. I love your definition of high-functioning depressive. Only someone who has experienced depression can appreciate just how amazing and courageous that is. I have and I do. I wish you lots of happiness and healing.

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  2. songtothesirens says:

    Your determination to be a high-functioning depressive is an inspirational and difficult one! Yea for your attitude change towards this person! There is absolutely no reason why a person with a manageable mental issue cannot function in this society, and people who use their illness to get out of participating in life are only doing themselves a disservice. Of course there are people with diagnoses that do manifest themselves so completely that they really cannot function.

    If you are comfortable enough, because of the ADA, you can even tell your employer about your issue(s). But, that I only recommend if your employer is cool with things like that. My last one wasn’t (she had her own mental health issues, in my opinion) and despite the ADA, I was still fired.

    When I decided to be a high-functioning bipolar I, I realized it was going to be a daily challenge to overcome what I had previously thought was the end of my life. However, I specifically decided to manage my medications so I don’t float off into the ether of over-medication, and I actually still get to experience life with all of its unknowns, its anxieties (which really aggravates my Panic disorder, but I get through that), its up and its downs. Wheee! When all is calm on the bipolar front of my life, I call it “surfing the sine wave.” It is like being in a boat rocking on a gentle sea. When the “Richter scale” happens, it’s probably best to stay away…..I am very unpredictable when small earthquakes are registering. Too bad my soon to be ex never could figure that out about me. You wouldn’t poke the bears in the zoo with a stick……the same goes for an irritated any (insert diagnosis here.)

    I have a wonderful psychiatrist that is all for the minimum of medication to manage symptoms while letting you have an emotional existence. He can never retire! And, I love my therapist! She’s the one who was bright enough to listen to me, not just sit there and doodle, but actually hear what I was telling her, and as a result, I got diagnosed properly. I would rather have been diagnosed with something a little less dire, a little “happier” with more positive outcomes than are associated with bipolar I which has run amok for 10 or 15 years. But, what can you do? When the shoe fits……

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    1. I totally agree with your comment about having a manageable mental illness – I guess that was something I hadn’t really reflected too much on until I read your reply. This blog and my experiences, etc. all come from the very lucky place of having an illness that does allow me to achieve all of my high-functioning definitions. I can hide it when I want to and I can hold down a good job. There are a lot of people who can’t do those things due to the nature and severity of their illness and to go beyond my original post I think that those of us who can still live a relatively normal life and choose not to “because I am ill” are actually give the finger to those individuals who aren’t lucky enough to have the choice.

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      1. songtothesirens says:

        That’s an interesting perspective. Kudos to you for being able to hide it. I, also, can hide my “illness” from people. I am a master at it. The anxiety leaks through a little, but I just say I am nervous about x, y, or z.

        I actually feel okay with the bipolar thing. I wouldn’t be able to write a damn thing if I hadn’t been through Major Depressive Disorder as a teen that later morphed into Bipolar I.

        I have a hard time with people I know can function just fine with some minor tweaks to their work, or job function (because the Americans with Disabilities Act) says the workplace has to accommodate people with mental or physical disorders that can satisfy the essential functions of the job provided that they be given time off for doctor’s, or are allowed to take certain medications on the job for like pain or anxiety. If the employee can do the job with minor modifications, the employer is required to make such modifications.

        But, they don’t, and they make excuses saying, “oh, I am ill with this or that, and I just can’t.” To me, that is a cop out. Yeah, it took me 7 years to get through college, but I did it as an untreated bipolar.

        Unfortunately, bipolars tend to have very patchy resumes which can be difficult to explain. I haven’t worked since July 2007, and I have to get a job soon which I know I am perfectly capable of doing, but that 6 year gap in employment is definitely a hard one to explain. I just tell the interviewer that I became ill, and needed time to deal with the illness and for recovery. Its the truth just truncated.

        I know schizophrenics who have been able to hold down jobs requiring both low and high functioning. If a schizophrenic can hold down a job, so can most other people without such severe diagnoses.

        I feel like giving the finger to people who use their illness to garner sympathy for their “plight”. I am able to function quite well with everything I have to deal with, and now that I am correctly medicated, and I go to therapy at least 2 times per month, it is managed.

        The three big diagnoses that people can receive that generally render them non-functional are: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. They account for about 23 million people in the US alone. But, even with one of these diagnoses, if you learn to handle it and can function well, that’s great. There are many who cannot. I have met them in hospitals, at bus stops, and many places. They are the one’s I feel bad for because I know what it is like to feel “trapped” by some crappy disorder and not being able to hide it at all.

        I think to me, being high-functioning (I have been thinking about this) requires a certain amount of manipulation. Being able to hide your illness is a sign that you are high-functioning, but it is also manipulative. There are many things that make a person functional, but being able to hide something like a mental illness is the first requirement, in my humble opinion.

        So, I can see your point about people who are perfectly capable but choose to use their illness as an excuse giving the finger to people who can’t function. I have known those people too. They are a bit tedious to me. They have bought into a concept in sociology and I think psychology, as well, known as the “sick role.” In other words, they have become their illness. It defines who they are. It is sad, really.

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