Invisible Illness Awareness – By No Fault Of My Own – Part 1

Miserable Invasion

by Susan Polis Schutz

What is this
that takes over my mind
with utter fright and
desolation
like an epilepsy of my mind
torturing all my thoughts?
Where does it come from
this miserable invasion
that possesses my entire
being?

Have you said the words of this poem to yourself?  Not just once but maybe hundreds of times? I think Susan Polis Schutz has captured the “feelings” of depression perfectly. While recently at the hospital during one of my dad’s recent stays, I bought her book of poems written during her journey through the disease of depression.  When I picked it up in the hospital gift shop and glanced through it I knew that she and I felt the same way. She put it into words what I probably could not have written. When you are depressed it is sometimes impossible to explain it. Those around you want an explanation but most of the time it is so difficult to understand yourself that finding words for it just isn’t possible.

I am writing a series of articles this month to shed light on an illness others cannot see but we most certainly can feel and experience. September is Invisible Illness Awareness month. Because I battle a number of illnesses that fall into that category, I am choosing to shed light on these invisible illnesses so those around me – friends, family, co-workers and anyone I come in contact with on a daily basis – can have some kind of an idea of what the struggle is like. I want you to see that living in a body looks normal but because of an invisible illness it is anything but normal. If you battle what would be categorized as an invisible illness please visit the website and find information, resources and most importantly the support you need.

What Depression Is
In my 20-year battle with clinical depression I have discovered that it is one of the most misunderstood diseases. Contrary to what a large percentage of society believes, depression is a legitimate disease resulting from the imbalance of the neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters balance the mood.  If your brain’s chemical balance is “off” then your mood will be affected leading to depression. The use of anti-depressants is necessary to rebalance those neurotransmitters – thus balancing your mood. It’s just that simple. Depression is legitimately a physical/chemical issue that can and should be corrected with medication. If a person has diabetes, which occurs in the imbalance of your body’s production of insulin, they would be placed on medications to correct that imbalance.

What Depression Is Not
Now to understand what depression is not. The cause of clinical depression is not rooted in a person’s character, spiritual relationship with God or their attitude toward things that happen in their daily life. People who do not fully understand the disease are quick to jump to one (or all) of these assumptions. It’s important to do some research prior to making the attempt to “help us feel better.” It is normal to feel sad at times when bad things happen. But eventually those feelings pass and just like before, you move on with your life.  While that is considered depression it is not clinical depression. Your situation resolves and you are happy again. Clinical depression means that we cannot be happy again if we do not have some help balancing the chemicals in our brain. The sadness stays and doesn’t leave.

Education is the key to being truly helpful to your friend, family member or acquaintance dealing with this disorder or any other invisible illness.  Helping you understand more about these areas is the purpose of my sharing this week on clinical depression. My goal by the end of the series is to provide the tools you need as the supporter to help us as the sufferers. We all know we are loved by those around us. And we understand that you want to help in some way.  It’s easier to see how you can help someone in a wheelchair or someone who is blind.  But it’s far more difficult to know how to help those of us who look or appear completely normal on the outside. My prayer is that by the end of this series – and actually this month as Invisible Illness Awareness Month – you will have the tools you need to feel more comfortable about your ability to understand and support those you love fighting an illness you cannot see.

In Part 2 of By No Fault Of My Own we will learn what NOT to say or do to some who is depressed.  See you then!

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