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!
I think that what you’re doing is fantastic! I too share your hope to eradicate the stigma, something I unfortunately became oh too familiar with after my own personal soak with mental illness…keep doing what you’re doing, very inspiring stuff!
Thanks for following the blog and thanks for the feedback!
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I went in a psych hospital during the time I had conversion disorder. I did not want to admit at the time that there was anything wrong with me (that’s pretty normal for Conversion Disorder patients). I fought it hard with my doctor. However, when I stepped into the psych hospital, I didn’t find crazy people as I was afraid I would see. In fact, i found people who I resonated with and seemed just like me. It was that safety of meeting people in the same situation that allowed me to reset life and move forward. When I left from there and came back for a visit, I could see a difference, but when I first stepped through those doors – I felt like I belonged!
Some people have not closely encountered anyone with a mental illness, or didn’t recognize it as such, so they believe the stereotypes. Mental illness is like a physical disease – it can happen to anyone at any time, and there is no blame or fault, and it requires treatment. Unfortunately there are many people who don’t understand this.
Thank you very much for the comment. I completely agree and I believe that this is part of the reason such a stigma around mental health still exists! I’m hoping that by sharing my story and blogging, I can help to put a dent in the stigma. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!
Both sides of my family have an extensive history with mental illness. I too went through rough patches where my mental issues humbled me; I eventually had to own my problems within versus projecting and blaming the outside world for problems. That step genuinely liberated me.
Thanks for sharing. I often hear from men in a support group that I’m in that one has to “do the work” to get better from depression. And I would agree. Sometimes, “the work” may look different for different people. Sounds like talking ownership and ending the blaming of others was a big part of “the work” for you! Really glad that you took that step and that it provided you with such a feeling of libation. That’s awesome! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog….and especially for sharing a piece of your story with us! Al 🙂