Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable.
An abstract analogy through poetry and visuals in the depths of depression and stigma.
Creator - RJ Walker
I’m from Salt Lake City. Born and raised, the whole mormon experience and everything. Everything I did in my teenage years was to prepare me to go on a mormon mission. That’s just the culture here. It’s an expectation. A rite of passage. And so I went on my mission. I didn’t last very long. I didn’t sleep for 2 weeks and had a seizure. This severe insomnia runs in my family, as well as other mental illnesses. The mormon church sent me home on medical leave, and that’s when my depression symptoms really began. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, Insomnia, and Panic Disorder. Quite a list. The disappointment of my parents and friends drove me to several unsuccessful suicide attempts, and constant self harm. Of course, my mother was beyond upset that I didn’t complete my mission, and that I wouldn’t go back. When I told her that I have depression, she didn’t believe me. Mormons believe in faith healing, and if you believe in faith healing, you must also believe in faith sickness. In my mother’s eyes, I wasn’t mentally ill, I just didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t believe in Jesus enough. I didn’t pray enough. I must have done something sinful and that was why I had these issues. She called me the antichrist, and I was thrown out, disowned, for not completing my purpose as a good mormon boy. I experienced a period of homelessness for around a month in the winter. Fortunatly, the white mormon upbringing in SLC is a privileged one, and I was the registered owner of a car (which I paid for by working through high school and fixing it up at the high school auto shop. My dad helped me a lot to.) I sold nearly all of my possessions to a pawn show to afford gas money. This included a lot of the gifts that were given to me to take on my mission. Every night, I would sit in the driver’s seat and fantasize about driving off the cliff. But, I cared too much about the car and the work my dad and I put into it, so one night, I stood at the edge of the cliff, and walked off of it. The drop was not nearly enough to kill me, the snow broke my fall and made the cliff more of a slope, and I ended up rolling down the ravine and injuring myself, rather than dying. Eventually, I was able to get a job with the EMT certification I acquired in high school. It wasn’t a well paying job, I was a night security guard, but it was enough for me to afford an apartment in an old house. The house wasn’t really fit for living at the time, but I negotiated with the landlord to let me live there for free for a while while I fixed it up and made it livable. I got my shit back together. I lost all my friends, family, and support system because I lost my faith in the mormon church, having looked at it from the outside in, but I learned to rely on myself.
My Poem Represents
Even after all that happened, my mental illnesses didn’t just go away. I have to manage them and live with them constantly. Often I have to sacrifice social situations or nicety’s to manage my condition. I lead a sober lifestyle, no alcohol or drugs. I know addiction runs in my family as well, and it already looks like I have the full gambit of other stuff. On top of that, drugs or alcohol could greatly exacerbate my mental illnesses. Because of my sobriety, and the fact that I can be a bit of a downer at parties due to my depression and PTSD, I don’t get invited to a lot of them. I usually get a lot of silent judgement from my peers. Makes me feel mormon again. “Why aren't’ you drinking?” and then I either have to explain the whole sob story, or make something up “oh, I’m driving.” “Why aren’t you socializing” and then I have to explain my social anxiety, and self defeating tendencies, or just make something up “I just have to send some emails on my phone” A few years ago, I was invited to a Halloween party by my girlfriend at the time. Everybody was drunk but me. I was the only one without a halloween costume. I got a lot of drunken criticism, and left. I wrote a poem about the experience. It takes place in a world where I’m brave enough to say what I should have said. It’s about the masks that we all wear to be acceptable, and how thick the mask must be for those with mental illness, in order to be more accepted by society. There’s the old saying that Clark Kent is Superman’s costume. RJ sometimes feels like my mental illnesses costumes, and wearing this costume is how I’m able to operate in society with minimal damage to myself and others. I came to that halloween party wearing the same costume I always wear. The scariest costume in the room- a monster, dressed as a man.
What is out there to help?
First thing to know is that you are not alone. There are many people around you that will offer a helping hand if you reach out. Below are a few organizations that can help get you on the road to recovery.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ADAA supports public health by leading the way, improving the lives of millions of children and adults and promoting professional and public awareness of anxiety, depression related disorders.
Hope For Depression. funds cutting-edge, scientific research into the origins, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of depression and its related mood and other emotional disorders.
DepressionAnd Bipolar Support Alliance. DBSA provides hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders.
- Therapies, cognitive, behavioral and talk therapy all offer different forms that may be found beneficial.
- Medication, such as anti depressants prevent or relieve depression and elevates mood.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), TMS is another nondrug approach for depression using an electromagnetic device held above the top of your head to induce a much smaller electric current in the region of the brain that controls mood.
- Alternative Treatments, Some people use herbs, supplements, and other alternative treatments for depression. None of these approaches has been conclusively proven to work. Supplements -- like SAMe and St. John's wort.
Whether they had had one episode of depression or many, people talked about getting better. While it can seem that depression will never end, people do tend to get better in time.