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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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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The Dangers in Media Consumption:

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While I’ve been sick I’ve been spending a lot of time online. I’ve been checking out all corners of the internet. I’ve read deep into both sides of politics, I’ve read about science, and I’ve watched some teen YouTube stars. When you dive into each of these universes it’s a bit like falling down a rabbit hole. You get consumed by it for the few hours your online.

What we don’t think about that much is what it does to us when we log off. Certain ideas stick with us and we’re not blind to them, but what we tend to miss is the fact that our mental vocabulary changes to meet what we’ve been consuming. The ideas overcome us.

A good example of this was when I was reading extreme feminist Twitter accounts. A few days after I was in my car and this song came on and I thought “this song is really good and so emotional, how is it even written by a man?” It took me back because I couldn’t believe what I just thought. I had been reading about emotionless men and “toxic masculinity” that I accidentally started to internalize it. There is no reason for me to think of men this way. All the men I’ve been in relationships with have shown emotions to me and their masculinity never was toxic. I actually enjoy masculine traits in men. I knew men could be emotional, so why had I forgotten it? Continue reading

The Past and the Matter of Perspective:

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When I have something bad happen to me my mind changes the way it looks at things, and it changes for the worse. One bad thing leads my mind to all the other bad things that I have had happen in my life. It makes me look back at my pain and think: this is more than normal. Or worse it makes me think: there has been more of this then there has been of the good.

It gets dangerous when that second thought surfaces, because it leads me into the kind of sadness that lasts for days. A kind of self-pity and resignation that just isn’t healthy. It changes my perspective and makes a single negative worth a life time of negatives. It’s a kind of mindset that can alter your life if you hang onto it for too long.

I’ve been in and out of this state for the last few months. Recovering from Lyme and Mono hasn’t been easy, and sometimes it drags me down emotionally.

So how do you shake it? It seems almost impossible when you are sitting under it.

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I’m Not Offended by my Bipolar Jokes. You Shouldn’t be Either.

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A post about real personal things calls for an unstaged picture. The “real” Anna.

My favorite one liner is “You know North Carolina, the weather is more bipolar than I am.”

I think it’s funny, it makes fun of both myself and my favorite place on earth. I said it while walking across campus last year with a friend and I had some random guy stop me. He told me I shouldn’t say that because it’s insensitive and offensive. I calmly explained to him that I was bipolar and I didn’t really think it was insensitive or offensive at all.

Have you ever had someone lecture you on why you should be personally offended by your own joke? It was really strange and it has happened to me more than once while at Guilford college. The strange part was that the people who were offended by me tossing the word around were never bipolar, nor were the people they were close too. They had just learned it was offensive and were trying to protect whoever it might offend.

The only problem was that I wasn’t offended. I thought it was funny and I’m going to explain why I think it’s okay to use the word bipolar when not talking about the disorder. Continue reading