I use this term, working diagnosis, to share with you what it is like for me to face work life with a long-term diagnosis of major depressive disorder. I discussed in a post recently, Depression Disclosure, the topic of sharing your diagnosis in a public way and in your work environment. Specifically, while you are in pursuit of work, it can be a frightful experience to know that issues like these could effect your ability to obtain employment.
There are times when the reality of the illness I live with, Major Depressive Disorder, feels unreal. There are times when it seems like a distant memory and as if perhaps the previous suicide attempts and months of darkness never happened. This is one of those times.
Last night, on the Mental Health and Social Media Chat (#mhsm) on Twitter, the topic was job searching and workplace disclosure for those with a mental health condition. While Isabella Mori moderated the chat and came up with all of the discussion questions, it was actually a topic that I had chosen. Depression disclosure at work is particularly relevant to me right now and it is at the forefront of my mind.
Sometimes it feels like it has been a long 20 years of living with depression and it's related challenges. Today feels like it's been far too long. I have been lucky enough to experience periods of reprieve, times of fresh perspective and times of stability. I believe I am still in a healthy place despite some major life challenges. But, even with these periods of relative calm and good mental health, there is something ever-present, the fear and stigma of depression.
Chronic pain and illness create depression, and I live with all of them. I have shared with you before that depression has been with me for a long time now. My last major bout of depression was in 2006, but I, like so many others, still live with the less severe aspects of depression on an ongoing basis. I want to talk to you about my last experience with a major depressive episode because it is greatly linked to a co-morbid condition I have. I know others also relate to chronic pain and other illness creating depression.
I attended a meeting last night of a community health care consumers group. Essentially, they are a group that seeks to inform and educate the public on local and national policy making, while also taking the temperature of the public and their view on certain aspects of health care. One of the attendees was discussing all of the technological advancements in medicine in the last half-century, but duly noted was a lack in advancement (aside from pharmacology) in the area of mental health and treating mental illness. This got my wheels turning.
It's been a while since I have told the world about my diagnosis with depression, in fact, the process has been going on for about 15-20 years. But sharing my diagnosis takes on a whole new meaning when I blog about it and speak out about it publicly, outside of my family and friends. While it may be something that feels "normal" to me, it might not always be the most comfortable thing to do for you or your loved one.
One of the most horrific aspects of major depressive disorder (MDD) is the severe stages of it, when the pain is most unbearable and so intense that a person feels like it would be better if life were over. It is truly one of the most terrifying of experiences to live in that space between fighting to live and fighting to die. But there are also challenging times living with major depressive disorder that are not quite so dramatic, yet still difficult and require an extra sort of energy to manage.
Today, I sit and wonder how it all got to be this way, how did I end up with this long-lasting battle with depression? Often, it does us little good to think too hard on the how and why, rather it serves us better to focus on "what do I do now?" It feels impossible not to ponder the rest of the story at times. It can creep into our lives or it can launch a sneak attack; no matter how it strikes it can be really confusing and difficult to determine the cause of depression.
Will I ever get better? If you suffer from depression you've certainly asked yourself this question a time or two. In some cases, depression clings for so long that we begin to doubt or believe that it really can improve. Sometimes, it truly feels impossible.