Sunday, January 12, 2014

What is Joy?

What is Joy?
January 2014
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

I do not normally write about myself or my personal experience, but perhaps in this case, someone may benefit from these words as they relate to them (maybe seek help). People often discuss depression and suicide as some vague, unattached problem with haunting numbers and tragedies without actually revealing the personal connection.  This may leave people, at the same time, without an avenue that may help in their struggle. The attempt here is to write something that will reveal vulnerability that in current society tends to carry negative stigmas. Yet, I know that I am only one of many that face this ongoing situation.  For people that suffer from depression, joy is a daily struggle.

Mental illness is not something one brags to co-workers or especially does not tell the boss why they need to call in sick for a day. The label is different from say a broken arm, influenza or even cancer. Yet, for those who suffer depression (chronic or severe), cancer may have parallels.  We may or may not want attention, but we would rather not want attention for being sick. Even more, the thing with depression is that there is a label attached to this that almost seems to offend senses of the apparently normal people.

Society has learned to lock people away for these kinds of things.  People are afraid to lose friends over perceptions of mental illness or for discussing these things openly. That becomes one of the major flaws in treatment. Thus, people with this condition, disorder, paranoia or this illness will do their best to hide the gnawing affliction inside of them and avoid treatment. Some days are better than others, but the reality is clearly underneath. Without discussion, journaling or at least some intervention, the depression can get immensely worse.

For me, I know that my pain of depression, with likely biological roots, surrounds painful decisions and several life situations that I have never fully let go. I sought out meditative practice with marginal success. I sought out avenues of relief through making other people happy even at my own expense because, somehow, that would lessen my internal pain. Yet, I also know that my attempts to quell pain with seemingly “better” decisions seem to result in more pain. A positive outlook on life and where I want to be seems like distant memories or evil (maybe childlike naivety) lies told to quiet your own mind. No matter how good the intentions or the presumptions are, something seems to come along and reverse that good.

I was drifting away from things that I wanted to do and hanging on to others.  I turned to alcohol in vain attempt to wash away those feelings but only masked the depression without solving any of the issues. I saw problems with drinking, and I stopped, restarted, and stopped drinking. Yet, I realized the depression is still here. Mr. Oblivious finally realized that the drinking was a symptom of the bigger issue that has not been resolved.  I write journals in welcome discovery of what that is, but to this day, I struggle to find and even more struggle to live with the core issues. I was still hanging upon things and so I talked to a doctor about medications and tried that avenue a couple times with moderate success. Yet, depression wants to rule.

When living with depression, certain moments in life can become more significant and for some, may trigger more severe episodes. A life event like death, recent stress at work, bullying, loss in sports, or even natural disaster can be toxic to the emotions. Normal people might feel bad, but a depressed person might easily attach guilt or shame to the emotions regardless of their part in the situation.

If you had enough of depression, one can turn to desperation. Desperation can lead to avenues that people are ill-equipped to handle.  This is where some have turned to mirages of the promised-land through suicide and pursued that end to completion. Especially as someone that has been hugely introspective, I know there is heavy suppression of the horrors deep inside. When everything seems to be collapsing in on you, people are willing to make desperate attempts to escape that dishonor, horror and pain. Thankfully, I have not realized the promised-land via suicide, but I know that some of my decisions may have been equally desperate attempts to resolve situations that could have been resolved most differently.

People know when other people are sick, and depression can make a person physically sick as well as mentally sick.  Yet, proper treatment without proper insurance may be difficult to receive. Depression and mental illness requires intervention.

I would not dare to write for all mental illness issues except merely my own experience with chronic depression. I do feel that I am taking a huge gamble in declaring my situation, but I hope that in some sense, verbal expression of my experience may help others to seek help where needed or their friends and family to be ready to intervene. Better treatment and better acceptance from society as a whole for mental issues would benefit our society.

The point then of this work is not to air out mind-numbing issues of personal misfortunes. If you have been able to live with depression, may you have many blessings. You might do well to share your insights and methods with others. If you currently are struggling with depression, know that you are not alone and chances are that good that people are willing to help. If you are thinking of suicide, find help NOW. The road may be tough for us, but we do not need to turn out the lights prematurely.