The Double Whammy

I had clinical depression for two years–1986 to 1988–when I was 10 years into addiction recovery. It was a very shocking experience. I didn’t know how to talk about it. Whatever I said in AA meetings, I was advised to work the steps harder. I was going to a daily noon meeting where I felt safe and secure. But outside, in the real world, I was having a very tough time functioning. Drinking or using was never an option. I call living with addiction and depression recovery the “double whammy”.

Denial is a tricky companion. In 1988, I was working at a psychiatric hospital in marketing giving lectures about depression in geriatric homes. One day I looked at my giant flipchart of the 18 symptoms of depression and realized I had at least 15 of the symptoms. It was OK for me to be a recovering alcoholic, but not OK to have depression. I left that lecture and went back to the hospital, looked up my favorite doctor, and told him that I needed help. Within 3 weeks, I felt better than I had ever felt in my life. So I had lived with depression for as long I could remember. I used alcohol to self-medicate. I know now I have dysthymia, a mild kind of depression that comes and goes.

1.  From Rachel Griffin: “5 Reasons Why I’m Not Ashamed of My Mental Health Condition”:

I used to feel ashamed of my mental health condition, but now I refuse to let stigma and stereotypes dictate how I feel about myself. If you stigmatize me, that’s yourignorance, not my truth. Cool people, who are educated about mental illness and confident in their own mental health, don’t stigmatize. Stigma is dated, cruel and just plain wrong. Get educated about mental illness and come over to the cool side.

People with mental illnesses are not less-than. They are not damaged. They are not what you see on TV, the news or in movies. They are people; brothers, mothers, fathers, daughters… People. They are valuable, vibrant, brilliant members of your community. They are 1 in 4 people, not some freaky monster you’ve never met.

I have an awesome, successful, happy life… and a mental health condition. Big deal. Get over it. Just because I’m different, doesn’t mean I’m broken. In fact, I like being different.

Shame is toxic to the human spirit. I’ve let it go and replaced it with pride and acceptance. You can shame me all you want and have a big ol’ shame party, but it’s my choice whether I attend or not. (I’m always busy with better, more important things to do than sit with shame.) Shaming yourself and others are both exhausting, heavy, soul-energy-sucking things to do. I’ll be by the pool with joy and acceptance if you want to join us.

I hope you’ll also let shame go and move forward with pride. Here are 5 reasons why I’m not ashamed anymore: Read more.

2.  From Sherry @sobermomwrites:  “Depression is a Funny Thing”:

Not funny ha-ha but more funny…weird.

I’ve been fighting depression for almost 21 years now.  I’ve been on and off medication over those 21 years in an effort to convince myself that I’m “normal” and not weak and able to cope with life without the aide of outside substances.  The only thing that has been consistent over those 21 years is that, without the aide of outside substances, I’m a fucking train wreck.  After my last attempt at leading a medication free life failed (miserably – pun intended) I came to accept that I would always need something to help me see life as something more than a joyless, gray and dreary place.

Anyone who is depressed or has been depressed knows that joyless, gray and dreary are mild adjectives to describe what I think of as the black hole.  That place that you slip into so slowly that you aren’t even aware it’s happening until one day someone says, “Are you okay?” or you look around at all you have and all who love you and all you want to do is cry.  Or crawl back into bed.  Or eat.  Or starve.

Or drink.

Anything to at least change the black hole to another color.  Except that there is no color.  Black is the absence of color.  No color.  No joy.  No hope.  So you can’t change it without help.