In 1990 I was diagnosed with major depression, recurrent. It was during a 10 day psychiatric stay that I found out about this, and that wanting to kill yourself on a daily basis wasn’t normal thinking. That may be overstating it a bit, as I wasn’t continually suicidal, but the depression was always overwhelming. It was difficult to get out of bed, let alone go to work or be productive.
And it was then I bought into my first myth of depression. Labeled as an SMI (serious mental illness), I blamed all my problems on depression, and its attendant problems. However, simply being on meds wasn’t enough for an effective change. It certainly smoothed out rough patches, but life was still not easy. The fact I was also fighting a neverending battle with alcohol and drugs didn’t help either.
In 1992/93 I was hospitalized again, and this time I applied for and received SSI. For the next 7 years I lived on 540 dollars a month. The depression grew worse. Even with meds, med changes and all that goes with a public healthcare system (rated as one of the worst in the country at the time) I felt no better than I did in 1990.
A chance meeting in 1997 at an AA group led to my first job since ’90. The benefit of working and staying on meds did more to improve my mood than anything. I was able to get off SSI, work and try and restart a life that never really took off. I was 32.
In the following 11 years, I’ve maintained employment, apartments, some relationships and a bit of sanity. I no longer let the depression control me. More accurately, I don’t let societies ideas of what being mentally ill is, control me. I stopped buying into the lie that I couldn’t be productive. That relationships were a dream, and happiness unreachable.
When someone like Pacione blames their own illnesses for asshole behavior, they do a disservice to those of us who choose to fight our problems the right way. Those of us who understand the debilitation of depression, and march forward are being shat on by his ilk. They seem to think they can do no wrong because it’s the “disease”.
My depression has exacerbated other shortcomings, which makes every day an uphill fight. But I don’t give up. I don’t back down.
Mostly importantly I train the demon, it doesn’t train me. I choose my own path, make my own decisions, and in the end have no one to blame for failures but myself.