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I had an appointment with my psychiatrist yesterday and she thinks I’m doing fine. I’m still on my original dose of Wellbutrin and she doesn’t want to change that.

Neither do I.

I guess that I am supposed to want to try to wean myself off of the Wellbutrin, to “gain independence from medication” and all that jazz. But quite frankly, I’m terrified that the depression will come back if we meddle with things, so I’m always relieved when she doesn’t suggest it. If it is still fixed, let’s not mess with the duct tape we used when it broke. You know?

I read on a forum that many depressed people have difficulty explaining to their significant others why they need the pills/therapy to deal with their problem. That made me think:

Do you think of depression as a disease?

You should. Some people do (mostly people who have suffered from it). Other people think of it as a fancy name for someone being mopey. Even though depression is a recognized medical condition, everyday people don’t think of it as such.

Isn’t that strange?

I mean, just like any other medical problem, mood disorders have a known etiology, recognized treatments, and even have medical doctors who specialize in the area. If I told you that I was going to see a cardiologist, or a podiatrist, or an oncologist, or a nephrologist, you’d think “Oh, she must have a medical condition” and you wouldn’t judge me as a person because of that.

But if I told you “I’m going to see a psychiatrist,” you’d think “oh, she must be crazy.”

People who seek help for mental disorders like depression or anxiety are perceived as weak. Many people, even those who try to be sympathetic and understanding, secretly feel that if you just pulled your socks up a bit, you’d be fine. But if you sought help for eczema, or poor vision, or ingrown toenails, or any other (much more trifling) matter, people wouldn’t think that you lacked willpower. They wouldn’t congratulate themselves on their superior moral fibre, capable of resisting such afflictions.

Quite frankly, mood disorders are simply not taken very seriously by most people. Chances are that some part of you, or someone you know, secretly believes that depression is just a form of laziness, best cured by “sucking it up.”

And yet, people die of depression. We call it suicide, but that’s really what suicide is – dying from depression.  Nor is it as simply treated as many other diseases. Our brain is our most vital, most irreplaceable organ. You can transplant a heart or liver or kidney. You can even temporarily cover for these organs with bypass and dialysis machines. But you can’t transplant a brain. Nor can you run someone’s thoughts through a machine to cleanse them of debris. We can cure leprosy and unblock arteries and even return severed digits to their rightful places, but we can’t stop the progress of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

So why do we take psychiatric conditions so lightly?

Why are people inclined to think that you lack moral fibre, just because you have a chemical imbalance in your central nervous system?

Why do these same people, when they suddenly find their own brain imbalanced, resist admitting it and going for help? These same people who wouldn’t hesitate to seek out a doctor for a cold or a sprained ankle would insist that they don’t need help with a potentially deadly disease… just because it occurs in their brain.

A few months ago, I obtained a copy of my psychiatrist’s report and recommendations so I could take it to my doctor. In the report, my psychiatrist recommends that I stay on my antidepressants. She then reports that my depression and anxiety are currently “in remission.”

In remission.

Like it is a cancer.

That temporarily floored me. Then I thought some more. Why not use those terms? Depression isn’t like a cold or a sprained ankle. Like cancer, it can become deadly. It is a leading cause of death in people under age 35. In fact, suicide kills more people worldwide than breast cancer or leukemia do. More people die of depression than by accidental drowning. You are more likely to be killed by suicide than by another person, and again, that’s worldwide, not just in the first world.

Thank God that I am “in remission” from such a disease. I hope it never recurs.

Depression changes you. It robs you of your natural energy, your sense of self. I am no longer depressed, but I have forgotten how to be me. I have many friends who have never even known the non-depressed me. Their idea of who Carol is and how she works is totally off-kilter, because they didn’t really know Carol. Whenever I hear this song, I want to cry, because it is a little too true.

I’m not sure I know Carol either, anymore, but I’m going to try to find her.

We have a lot to talk about.