I have depression. Dysthymia to be exact. Dysthymia is a chronic but relatively ‘mild’ form of depression. I’ve had two major depressive episodes. The first occurred in February 2011 and is the reason I took a medical withdrawl from UC Berkeley. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, but it was the right one.
I also have an anxiety disorder, which is actually probably worse (stronger, more present) that the depression. Apparently, it isn’t normal to remember being anxious in Kindergarten. This ‘dual diagnosis’ makes it more difficult to decipher the source of the problems I encounter.
It sucks. No, I don’t want your pity. The last thing I want is your pity. I actually unfriended a high school friend on Facebook after meeting him for coffee because my pity radar went off.
If you really want to do something, donate, anything, to http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/donate . I am very fortunate that I have an incredibly supportive family who has also financed the entirety of my vast and plenty mental health treatments. Mental health does not have the funding, facilities, or personnel it needs to really make a difference in the lives of every person (or even American) who faces a mental health disorder. I have experienced this in the forms of poor therapists who actually made me feel worse and poor urgent care facilities that are something out of Sylvia Plath’s writings and will scare you out of whatever it is you are experiencing, temporarily.
In my Title Explanation, I stated that I metaphorically Lost My Boots In Berkeley. I lost my identity. I was a student, a scholar a researcher – not a mental health patient.
For approximately three years, the treatment of my mental health disorders became my primary focus, which did not allow for the time or mental capacity to maintain my former identity.
The combination of time away from school and a deluge of prescription drugs led to a deterioration of my intelligence. It was almost like I could physically feel it in my brain. Words would not come to me in conversation despite my desperate attempts to recall them. My memory was poor. My neurons weren’t firing like they used to. I began to say “Well, I used to be smart/intelligent.”
It became obvious that in order to treat my disorders, I had to accept them, but it seemed like their acceptance would result in the loss of my former self: My wants, desires, passions, personality – everything that made me, me.
Luckily, I now know that this is not true. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the past few years is the importance of balance. I can see a therapist but also attend school. I can take the right prescription medications but also hang out with friends and have a good time. Tears are sometimes followed by laughter and vice versa.
The reason I am writing and sharing this piece is to bring awareness to mental health and all those who face its many disorders. Not talking about depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, etc. gives them a terrific power. It has taken me time, but I now know that my diseases are nothing to be ashamed of. So many people are hiding their mental health disorders for fear of facing discrimination and even ridicule. Many individuals are scared about mental health disorders because they do not have any knowledge about them. Luckily for me, the only time I have really faced discrimination has been in the dating scene. I can’t tell you how many guys have tucked their tail and run as soon as I said “I have depress….”
My diseases are something I will live with for the rest of my life, but they will not define my life. And I have a lot in the life ahead of me.
I’m changing my major from Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Genetics to Psychology. For one thing, it’s less of a mouthful. (That’s not really a reason I’m changing my major, but it’s a good point.) I have taken two Psychology courses and thoroughly enjoyed both. My decision to change my major is both a selfish and selfless act because I’m making this change to make my life more enjoyable – despite my passion for Genetics, I do not deem Organic Chemistry nor Biochemistry enjoyable. It is a selfless act because I hope to one day use my knowledge and experiences to help others who are struggling with similar demons I have faced.
I may one day return to gene therapy. I definitely still have a passion for it and am fascinated by the field, but, right now, that track is not for me. I am considering merging my two passions by becoming a Genetic Counselor: Someone who relays genetic test results to patients and advises them on choices they may or may not make based on those results.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or comment on the post. I welcome and encourage questions and discussion.
Did you just hear that? I heard a stampede of elephants that is the secrecy of mental health.