A recent Facebook post is the reason for this story.
Someone I don’t know well posted some difficulties he’s been having. He danced around what sounded to me like depression. Without actually using the D-word, he talked about having a hard time getting out of bed, feeling sad for no reason and just wondering if it was worth going on.
I’ve been there. And I was super concerned about him. But I didn’t feel it was my place to slide into his DMs when I didn’t know him. I decided to check on the comments and hope that he got some good advice from his Facebook family.
Here’s what folks suggested:
- When you feel like you don’t want to get up, get up anyway and you’ll feel better.
- Try to at least get up for church and let the blood of Jesus wash away Satan’s hold on you.
- Cut out all dairy products from your diet. You’ll feel better immediately. (TWO people posted that.)
- Join a sport.
- Take St. John’s-wort!
This went on for 20 comments. I cried. And then I said curse words to these nameless, faceless people who I knew were just trying to help him.
But here’s what he needs: therapy and meds.
Let me say it one more time: therapy and meds.
I know I don’t know him or his life. And I know that the blood of Jesus may indeed be miraculous. I know playing a sport helps with endorphins. But if this man is definitely clinically depressed, he needs two things first.
How do I know? Well, because this is my life and that’s what I need. Now, many would say, well, that’s just your life. That is true; your mileage may vary. But for the most part, here’s how this works.
Dealing with depression (and all mental-health issues) is like having a broken leg. You need a doctor and a cast right away when you break your leg. We all agree on that, right?
Would a pair of crutches help? Yes.
Can it replace a doctor and a cast? No.
Can you ignore the fact that your leg is broken and get up and walk it off? No.
Can you change your diet and heal your leg? No.
Can you fix your leg alone with no medical attention? No.
Should you wait it out and see if your leg heals on its own?
You see where I’m going with this.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen posts like this, and I always feel steam coming out of my ears. But I rarely comment—even when it’s someone I know. I feel like it’s not my business, and more importantly—I wasn’t ready to out myself as someone who deals with mental-health issues.
The truth is (takes a deep breath), I’m a proud resident of Crazytown. And have been for years.
(Around the world, people are reading and nodding like, oh! Now that makes sense!)
So this is the paragraph where I break down my mental-health story—which begins in 1986 and continues into this very moment. It’s super juicy (and often devastatingly sad). But I don’t know if that’s necessary—just yet.
The basics: I was diagnosed with lots of fun labels around 2009. I didn’t figure it out and get it under control (if there is such a thing) until Feb. 22, 2017.
Eight years of (mostly) crappy doctors, awful medications, and family and friends who just didn’t know what to do.
Whenever I tried to talk to people I trusted, I often got suggestions like giving up dairy (I’m still pissed at that friend, although I know he meant well) and working out more or joining the church.
I’m extremely type A with a healthy dose of OCD. I am the queen of Get Things Done. So what frustrated me most over the years was that living in Crazytown was not something I could research and conquer on my own.
Example: In 2004 I realized I had somehow moved to DrinkyTown. I needed to stop drinking. I did my homework. Found a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in my area. Listened to what they had to say. Go to 90 meetings in 90 days? Jeesh. OK. I’ll do it. Get a sponsor? I don’t like these people. But all right, cool. I’ll get one. Read these books and pamphlets? Done. The place kind of felt like a freaking cult. But it was working. Thirteen years later, I’m still here.
If you realize you live in DrinkyTown, you’ll find a whole community of folks to get you all settled in. And they will invite you over for weak coffee and stale cookies every single day.
But living in Crazytown doesn’t work that way. You go to a doctor who asks you a bunch of questions, gives you a prescription and you’re on your own. You don’t get a sponsor that you can call every single day and have meetings all over the world you can drop into if things are getting tough.
You have to find the right doctors, the right books and the right treatment program—and be ready to switch it all up if you need to. It’s draining. It’s expensive. And if you’re symptomatic—it’s impossible. How the hell are you supposed to figure out how to pull yourself up out of depression if you’re depressed? How do you pull yourself down from mania if you’re manic?
Last year I managed to figure out my own system. I sat down with a new psychiatrist for the billionth time. As soon as we started to talk, I felt like he might be the one. I showed him the meds I was on and he immediately pointed out some issues that had been concerning me, too. Me and new doc vibed. And we’re still going strong. (Much more on that later.)
I’m very proud of many things in my life. I made the New York Times best-seller list with my very first book. I have had a storied career in journalism over the past 19 years. I took on motherhood (and stepmotherhood) like a freaking boss. I looked at my 20-something drunken-hot-mess self and said, nah, girl. You gotta chill. Let’s work this out. And I did. For everything from Newports to Louisiana crunch cake, I know how to look my vices in the face and shut them down. I know how to look my goals in the face and make them happen.
But there is nothing—and I mean nothing—I am more proud of than how I have conquered three decades of mental-health shit. Of course, conquered doesn’t mean cured. Which is why I am on my therapist’s couch every Tuesday at 12:30.
But I’s here. And I’m going to use this space to talk about how I got to the top of the Rocky steps, running in circles and shaking my fists with a bottle of lithium in each hand. (That lithium, I tell you … it’s a helluva drug.)
I’ll be writing for the Facebook guy who needed help that day. And for every single person I’ve seen struggling with the same things. I’ll be sharing what’s been working for me. Through all of the super-tough side effects, the frustrating therapy sessions, the expensive copays—all of it.
So yeah, I’m living in Crazytown on that proverbial broken leg—with a cast and crutches.
But I didn’t even have to give up dairy.