The more I read about mental illness, the more I understand about my own mental health. Whether its through memoirs or fiction, I’m learning that I’m not alone. I always thought that I didn’t become depressed until I started to have chronic pain. I contributed the two to one another; I have depression because of my pain, there is a direct correlation between the two. I can’t be the person I want to be because I’m limited by my illness. This causes me to be depressed. However, I’m coming to realize that I was showing some signs during childhood that weren’t exactly healthy or normal.
When I was young, I was extremely active. I took dance classes every day after school and also on the weekends. I absolutely loved it and would have taken even more classes if I could. But there are some moments where I must have been really exhausted with it all. I used to climb up the outside of the bannister in our house and then jump off, hoping to break an ankle or even my whole leg. This would mean that I couldn’t dance, that I could have a break. My subconscious was telling me that maybe it was all too much. Looking back on it now, this must have been a sign of depression or anxiety that I obviously never put together. I don’t even think I told my parents that this was a thing I used to do.
Once I got older and was diagnosed with different forms of chronic pain, as well as depression, I began to have intrusive thoughts. I used to wish for cancer or a brain tumor, something definite that would give me the excuse to lay in bed all the time. Also, to have something that will make people understand. When you say that it’s just fibromyalgia or headaches, people expect you to push through it and suck it up. But they wouldn’t say that to someone with cancer. I would drive on the freeway and think, “I could just ram into this center divider and end up in the hospital, then people wouldn’t call me lazy.” Only after reading more and more about mental health, did I realize how damaging these kinds of thoughts are. I hadn’t even heard of the phrase “intrusive thoughts.” It’s been so helpful to see that my brain isn’t broken for feeling this way, that I’m not completely alone in these feelings.
Funnily enough, when I did get diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery, I felt guilty for spending so much time in bed. I didn’t understand that my body went through a trauma and it needed time to heal. Once I got the thing that I wished for, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t hold a job or do anything productive.
Today, I still struggle with these kind of thoughts, but I feel like I’ve come to a point of acceptance. Depression is something I have, something I push through every single day. Just because I’m starting to understand it and see where it all stems from, doesn’t mean depression will just *POOF* go away. It is not going anywhere. It’s another symptom to my chronic pain and needs to be treated as such. It’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s something I need to maintain in the healthiest way I can. But, as we know, this is all easier said than done.