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Dancing With Depression

Alex Alexander Photography 2010

It is a known fact that at least 1 in every 10 americans will battle with some form of depression in their lifetime. One of the most troubling truths about this illness is that more than a third of those who seek help will most likely be under diagnosed and receive inadequate treatment thus leading to an increasing relapse rate and in some severe cases, attempted or "successful" suicide. Despite a rise in data over the years, clinical depression and bipolar illnesses remain a mystery to most.. From the people who are stricken with it, to those who are licensed to treat it, depression in all it's variants remain misunderstood by the medical community and even more so by the general public who continues to blanket the illness under stigma and shame..

Some time ago, I was prescribed a once daily birth control to regulate my sporadic cycle after years of enduring some of the most excruciatingly painful and sometimes crippling periods. As a woman who deals with moderate to severe bouts of depression, I've found it difficult to diagnose my symptoms from those typically brought on by PMS; the fatigue, immense sadness and anxiety, decreased concentration, anger, irritability and so fourth. It's enough that Im already taking birth control, my long term relationship makes that worth while. but I just can't bring myself to take an antidepressant on top of it all. I know far too many horror stories. I've loved and lived with someone who had it far worse than I, talking them off the edge every day and night, I know the symptoms, loss of sexual appetite, nausea, weight gain, blurred vision just to name a few. and besides, I think I know my body well enough to bet that it wouldn't do me any good to have those meds go to war in my system when I already go to war with myself on a daily bases (No stimuli necessary.)

Some days are easier than most. I can go long periods of time without having to deal with the heaviness that comes along with being overwhelmed by even the simplest of tasks. Yet and still I live a fabulous life filled with art, music,. fashion and extreme decadence. I have a continuously supportive family that encourages me to follow my dreams, I pride myself on navigating through the trials of pursuing an impractical profession as an artist and although that journey is a rewarding one, it is often paved in loneliness and countless triggers that have the ability to knock me off my stride at any given moment. Depression doesn't give you a courtesy call before it barges into your peace. It keeps you up at night and chews away at your nail beds as it infiltrates your thoughts and steals your joy.

This recent influx of depression started with a sudden and very drastic departure from marijuana. For the last ten years I have not only been an avid pot smoker for creative and recreational purposes but an advocate for its remarkable medicinal purposes as well. Weed has been the difference between can and can't for me. It wasn't so much about being high as it was about being functionally capable. Since birth I've battled with an eye condition called nystagmus astigmatism which causes rapid involuntary movement of the pupil. This worsens under extreme stress causing anxiousness, intense dizziness and disorientation. I have had this under control for some time now but due to a change in living arrangements, I am no longer able to sustain the ritual of self-medicating. Aside from aiding me in my sight problems, pot has been a constant for me when nothing and no one else has. Since quitting pretty much cold turkey, aS it is with any drug, the withdrawal symptoms range from moderate to holy hell, how am i going to get through the next ten minutes. My focus is completely shot, my moods are unpredictable and my eating and sleeping habits are the things night,ares are made of.

The truth is depression hurts. It sucks the life out you and almost anyone you come in close contact with when it strikes. I recently decided that there is no honor in taking this on alone. There is no shame in seeking the help of professionals who can interpret the language of underlying agony and sadness. Lately I have been more open with my situation only to those closest to me in hopes to gain some clarity and let my partner and family in on something thats been plaguing me for some time now. yet my openness has not been greeted with the warmest of gestures. The admittance of my sickness brought on a great deal of shame and intolerance from those who dont understand. Then came the guilt trips from people who feel they are to blame for my pain. And lastly, a few spot-on sermons of encouragement from people who feel that I am better than this and have no real reasons to give in to depression. The reality is I am better than my disposition but that doesn't keep me from going through the worst of it. What people see on the outside is me thriving and making huge strides in the right direction. What they dont see is my reaction to the come down. The feelings of loss and desperation before the next upswing. The effects from enduring these extreme peaks and valleys are not for the weak hearted but hey, no one said life would be a cakewalk.

I guess my only advice to those who are silently suffering is to speak up about it. Identify the problem for yourself and weigh your options for treatment. There is nothing sad or weak about needing someone to comfort you when all you can do is the exact opposite. We were put on this planet to relate not to shift blame or shame one another for coping differently than the next man, All your scars are beautiful even the ones you can't see. and Remember that you are not pathetic for feeling everything so strongly and so deeply. Most people go their entire lives trying to numb or mask the most human of emotions. Like Imogen Heap said, "Theres beauty in the breakdown." so dont be afraid to do just that. Breakdown so that you may breakthrough and come out stronger on the other side of your troubles. Trust me… I'm making progress everyday :

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