Hi everybody. Cara Santa Maria here. As we've been discussing mental health this month, I've read some pretty cynical comments on my blog posts about how people with depression should "just get over it." About how "we all get sad sometimes and it's hard to deal...what makes you so special?" Well, for anybody watching who feels that way, I have to tell you: depression is a brain illness. It is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Depressed people don't choose to be sick. They want to be well. They want to live full lives and fall in love and get simple pleasures out of simple things. If they could just shake it off or get over it, they would. Believe me, I know.
I know this not only because I studied it academically. I know this because I personally have battled with depression for as long as I can remember. For me, it took hitting rock bottom to realize that I had to prioritize my mental health if I wanted to get through my darkest days alive, and I really hope those days are behind me.
I used to think that I deserved to be sad all the time. I felt worthless, I felt guilty, I had just no self-esteem. I couldn't eat or sleep. If I started to cry, I couldn't stop. When you're in the grips of a depressive episode, you can't find pleasure in anything. Clinicians call this anhedonia; I called it not being able to get out of bed in the morning.
And trust me, I am just as wary of big pharma as the next guy. But let's look at the facts. Millions of people wouldn't be able to live productive, healthy lives without psychoactive medication. I take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor every day. It ensures that I have enough of this vital neurotransmitter between my nerve cells. This is my brain chemistry, but depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness. Some people have problems with serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, or even a combination of all three. On the other hand, some depressed people don’t need anti-depressants; therapy alone may be enough to conquer their illness.
Depression is more common than you think, and there's a good chance that you or someone you love will be exposed to it at some point in your lives. I know I'm sick, but I also know that I am more than my disease. Depression doesn't have to be a terminal illness. If you are depressed, I urge you to take control. Reach out, and get help. You're not alone, and you can get through this.
Join us this month as we continue to talk about mental health and mental illness. You can reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook, or leave your comments right here on my column. Come on, Talk Nerdy to Me.