I describe my major depressive episode in many ways, but one that often gets questioned is when I refer to it as a very humbling experience. Many people ask me, “In what way was it humbling?”
As much as I hate to admit it at this point, I am certain that many of my thoughts around people with a mental illness were influenced by negative stereotypes. Prior to having experienced a major depressive episode and checking myself into a partial hospitalization program, when I thought of mental illness, I thought of people living on the streets, disheveled, uneducated. I may have thought of people with a mental illness as “crazy” or “unstable”.
Finding myself walking through the doors of a hospital to get to my rehab program felt surreal. I always thought of myself as happy, outgoing, and personable. It never crossed my mind that I could be hit with a bout of depression. However, it was being a part of this program and meeting many other people who were very similar to me that allowed me to begin to open my eyes to the fact that depression and other mental illnesses strikes across all socio-economic groups, ethnicities, jobs, etc.
In addition to meeting people first-hand who did not meet my stereotypes, I also began to research more about depression so I could understand what was happening to me. It was through my research and watching video documentaries and Ted Talks where I became exposed for the first time to people such as Elyn Saks, Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences who lives with schizophrenia or journalist Mike Wallace dealing with depression. I started to read about many other well known celebrities and leaders who lived with a mental illness. Through my research, I learned that depression can even strike those who seem to be doing really well for seemingly no decipherable reason at all.
I now realize that there are no boundaries for who may or may not become mentally ill. I would like to do my part in minimizing (or even eliminating) the stigma around mental illness. That is why I now present for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and why I have created this blog that includes my own story of depression. I hope that others do not need to go through what I went thorough to have a better understanding around mental illness.
I encourage you to comment on this blog entry–and any other blog entries on my site!