By Sheri Schooley of Mommyopoly
I am a wife, a stay-at-home mom, a writer, and a comedian. And, finally, after far too long, I am also an advocate for mental health.
You see, I am a medicated momma. And I am tired of being ashamed.
I have suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) since I was 15 years old. (I remember having symptoms since the age of 6, but it didn’t become life-altering until I was a teenager.) Twenty-three long, brutal years. I have been receiving treatment for just as long, both pharmaceutical and cognitive.
After all of this time with this lengthy and never-ending battle, I am finally comfortable enough with myself to admit publicly that I struggle with these illnesses. That every single day can be a fight. That sometimes it seems like it’s just too much.
I’m tired of hating myself for something that isn’t even my fault. These are the cards I was dealt; these are the diagnoses I was given. I want society to change its views on mental health so that others who are struggling out there start to love themselves like I should have be doing all along. Because, although these illnesses are categorized as “mental disorders,” I want you to recognize this, particularly if you are going to stigmatize me: These illnesses/maladies/conditions are purely PHYSICAL.
OCD, MDD, and other illnesses like them are a result of a defect in the brain. My brain does not produce enough of a certain neurotransmitter. I’ve been told it never will. The medication I take helps boost that number, since my brain cannot do it on its own. Treatment is not a cure, but it helps make things more manageable, most of the time.
Like others who suffer with “invisible diseases,” such as diabetes or heart conditions, for example, I am medicated. I’ve been medicated for more than 20 years (minus going off meds in relation to my pregnancies) and will likely be medicated for the remainder of my life. Unlike those people, I am looked down upon and labeled because of it.
Really, what is the difference? Certain organs in their bodies not performing correctly are causing their diseases, just as my brain not performing as it should causes mine. People tend to rally around those who are diagnosed with physical illnesses, offering condolences, support, and encouragement, while they tend to shun or ignore those diagnosed with “mental” ones. Why?
Remove the stigma. One disease is no easier or “better to have” than another; no disease is worse than another. They’re all hugely uncomfortable. They all have the potential to be passed down through generations or to pop up out of nowhere. They’re all treatable to some extent. And sadly they are all also potentially deadly.
Don’t act as though my chronic illnesses are horrifying because you don’t understand them. Don’t look down on me because my brain happens to the be the organ in my body that isn’t functioning the way it should. Don’t pity my family or me because I’m “crazy.” If you’re going to reach out, do so because we are suffering, because dealing with any disease can be difficult, not because you think I’m “nuts.”
I am very high-functioning. Most people I know, even those very close to me, would NEVER guess that I face the issues I do, that I am as sick as I am. I am incredibly good at hiding the panic attacks, the insomnia, the doubt, the fear, and the unrelenting sadness I can experience on the daily. I’m tired of feeling I have to hide them. I’m tired of being scared of letting anyone close, fearing that their thoughts of me or my family will change once they know my diagnoses. I’m absolutely exhausted from fighting both of these diseases, as well as the stigma that they come with. We need to put a stop to this. We need to start calling things what they really are. These are PHYSICAL conditions.
These illnesses do not stop me from being a good person. I’m still a good friend, a great mom, a devoted wife. I still work. I still reach out to others in need. I am still able to experience joy, and happiness, and love. I just have to fight a little harder than some people.
I suffer from OCD and MDD, and I am medicated, but I am NOT mentally ill. NOW is the time to STOP THE STIGMA.
This post was originally published on Mommyopoly.
About the Author
Sheri Schooley is a sarcastic, witty, self-deprecating, (almost) middle-aged, hilarious wife and mother of two incredibly amazing daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as making people laugh. She currently resides in the way-too-hot State of Florida and is phenomenal at complaining about it. Sheri expresses herself best through the written word and hopes that you’ll be able to connect with her through her stories of relationships, parenting, and neuroses. She can be reached on Facebook, on Twitter, and on her blog at Mommyopoly.