Is depression just a mindset or is it just a chemical imbalance?

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This titles a tease, because it’s both. But the internet has been arguing about it lately, so I thought I would roll up my sleeves and dive one in.

This argument has been around for a few years now, it’s been talked about enough that I felt the need to put a disclaimer on my “How to Embrace a Happy Life” post that talked about how beating depression isn’t as simple as choosing to be happy, even though there really shouldn’t have been a way to get that from the post.

People who fight depression have gotten sick of hearing those kind of lines, which is completely understandable. What isn’t understandable is the argument that depression is only a chemical imbalance that doesn’t have much to do with mindset.

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I was bullied to attempted suicide. Here’s what I think about the Michelle Carter case:

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Now that I’ve decided to add a mental health section to this blog I’ve been trying to keep it from taking over. I have a lot to talk about, but I don’t want it to be the main point of this blog. Still, this is one news story that I couldn’t really back away from. It hits a little close to home and it’s pretty main stream.

In middle school I was bullied very badly, to the point I was pulled out of school (I didn’t technically finish 8th grade before I moved on to high school) and put into a private school for the following year simply to get me away from the classmates I was with. It was not a good time, all three years I was horribly depressed. I got pulled from school because I told my mom I was suicidal (more on that choice here).

One line that haunted me was “I heard you were suicidal, but I guess you couldn’t even kill yourself right.”

I mean YIKES. So needless to say I have thoughts on the Michelle Carter story, a story that is 100xs worse than mine was and ultimately lead to the death of  a teenage boy.

You can read the full news story here if you haven’t already, but it has a lot more to do than simply telling someone they should kill themselves. I’m not going to go into all the details though, because plenty of people already have. Instead I’m going to go into my thoughts on it.

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Why it’s okay for people to call mental disorders gifts:

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There was a post going around Tumblr and Facebook recently about Vincent Van Gogh and his mental illness. The post was saying that we shouldn’t say that his artistic mind was a gift from his mental illness. It’s argument was that nothing from a disabling illness (that lead to his death) was a gift, and that he would have completely thrown away his art if he could have a cure for his illness.

Van Gogh is one of my favorites, not only because he is a great artist, but because he was bipolar, just like I am. I wrote a huge research project on him while I was in college, and I got invested in who he was as a person. And I have a problem with posts like these.

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Personal Responsibility & Accountability:

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We don’t hear a lot about personal responsibility and accountability anymore, or at least, I don’t online and I didn’t on my college campus. It’s an easy thing to try and brush off, nobody wants to take full responsibility for their life. It’s so much easier to blame things on circumstances. After all, our circumstance did effect us, why shouldn’t we blame our choices on them?

The whole problem with that is despite how we were raised, what happened to us in the past, or what other people think of us, our choices are still up to us. Every¬†decision we make we are responsible for. It’s time we start owning up to that, because by saying that we aren’t in control of the bad things we admit that we’re not in control of the good things, because whether you like it or not, it’s a two way street, and to say your not in control of anything… well, that’s a flat out lie.

We know it’s a lie because we see people conquer the same circumstances that we face regularly. We constantly hear people own up to their mistakes, their bad decisions, their regrets. We know it’s possible, but we still excuse ourselves for the same things. We freeze before going into the so grossly overused “it’s different!” defense.

We’ve been saying that for years, when are we going to realize that it’s not a good enough excuse? When are we going to pick ourselves up, when are we going to stop blaming everyone but ourselves?

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An Open Letter to those Struggling with Depression and Suicidal Thoughts:

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I wanted to start this letter with “you are loved” and “it will get better” but those are messages you read all the time and right now it doesn’t matter how many times you read them you will not believe them, it’s not just hard for you to, it’s almost impossible for you too. That is what illness does to your brain. It makes it impossible to see the good.

I’ve been really depressed twice in my life, both for different reasons. The first time was in middle school, after three years of social torture and a ton of bullying I was so depressed my parents pulled me out of the 8th grade because I was suicidal. Then again, when I was 16, because my medication for my bipolar disorder was bringing some serious health issues along with it. I was removed from the medication and fell into depression because of my disorder. So, one was triggered by events and one was triggered purely by my brain. One kind is not better than the other.

Instead of telling you about your situation I’m going to tell you about mine. I would have missed proms, weddings, graduations. I would have missed reuniting with one of my past best friends. I would have missed saving three different lives from taking themselves. I would have missed two different years that at the time I proudly proclaimed “I’ve never been happier in my life.”

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How to Embrace a Happy Lifestyle:

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Happiness is not a destination you can reach, it’s a lifestyle you have to live.

Once you realize that no matter what you achieve you always find yourself saying “I’ll be happy when…” you start to shift your perspective on what happiness actually is. No matter what our dreams tell us, we all know that there isn’t going to be a magic point and time where we are completely happy. The reason we hang onto this hope is because looking back at our past we can point out years when we were. Our memory tends to throw out the bad days sprinkled in our good months, and it’s a good thing, looking back we can say that that was what happiness feels like, but you need to have the perspective on those times. Even your best times had nights you cried yourself to sleep.

So, if we can’t all of a sudden make it to happiness how to we become happier? Happy is a lifestyle, and it’s not one anyone can maintain 24/7. What all does this lifestyle entail?

Happiness is hard work, especially when your life isn’t making it easy. I’ve always been amazed by loved ones who are happy while going through hell on earth. You always marvel and ask them how they are doing it. The answer you normally get is along the lines of “I just decided to be happy.”

It isn’t that easy, but it is that simple. Here are some ways to embrace the happy lifestyle:

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Why self diagnosing mental disorders isn’t okay.

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I read an article recently that stated that self diagnosed mental disorders where okay because after all not everyone could afford to go to the doctors and sometimes the doctors got it wrong. I agree that both those problems are real and should be addressed, but, um, why does that make self diagnosing okay? You can know something is wrong without labeling it and you can get more than one doctors opinion. Mental health is not something that should be taken lightly and self diagnosing is dangerous.

For starters our mind is and always has been sensitive to ideas. The power of suggestion goes a long way. Ask anyone who has gone on WebMD to see why they have a sore throat. It can cause us to start imagining symptoms that we don’t have. It can make things worse than they already are. Continue reading