One of my daughters is on a daily SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or, in layman's terms, an antidepressant. She was diagnosed with the main dish of Anxiety Disorder, with a side of depression. I can joke about it now - and she can too - but it hasn't always been that way.
We first encountered it years ago. At the time we sought counseling but nothing else in the way of help for her. She was so young that I just couldn't imagine putting her on a medication. I had a hard time even accepting that she might have a mental disorder. We got through that time - barely - and went on without it rearing its head again. But when it resurfaced three years ago, it did so with a vengeance. This time, I was better equipped myself to deal with it. There was no hesitation. We immediately saw a doctor, got a prescription, and set up counseling. We also saw a naturopathic doctor and set her on a healthy diet and sleep regimen. All of that combined has been very helpful for her. She is able to function most days just like anyone else. She has her ups and downs, but where she was and where she is today is like night and day.
Here's what I wasn't prepared for : the lack of support from some of those around us. There is a huge amount of prejudices about mental health disorders. And from some, an outright disbelief of them. I've gotten a lot of unwanted advice that, while they mean well, is just not feasible. If I had told others that she had cancer, no one would have questioned starting immediate treatment. A broken leg? Set it and put a cast on. A headache? Take a Tylenol. But a mental issue screams "Cover me, hide me, deny me! I am not a 'real' disorder because I am in your head where no one else sees me." But it is real. It is real for her. It is real for us. We see what it does to her, how it affects her life, how it changes her. We are helpless to fight it. I wish that I could. I wish that I could take it from her and deal with it myself. It hurts me to watch her hurt. It is painful to watch her struggle. So, I do the only thing that I can as an outsider, a bystander. I accept her as she is. I support her. I love her. I listen to her. I don't question what she says is feeling. I pray for her.
She sometimes questions me as to why it had to be her. And I have no answers. I don't know why her brain is set up differently than most. I do tell her that our Papa makes no mistakes. That there is a reason and that it will be clear one day. That one day He could heal her and make it all go away. But until that day, we just carry on. This is what I do know : it has made her a stronger person, a more caring one, a loving one who accepts all others for who they really are and is sensitive to their needs. Just like a butterfly, she is made stronger in the struggle to free herself from this chrysalis, to be who she really is without fear of rejection or pity, and to fly proudly in all of her God-given beauty.
I am again reminded (with the highly publicized death of Robin Williams) of the seriousness of this disease that the public still largely ignores, or places such a negative stigma on it that those suffering choose to remain silent, hidden, purposefully putting on a front, a mask of happiness that doesn't quite reach the core of who they are. And it hurts my heart. There are so many, not just the famous, who feel daily like they are at the end of their rope, like they have exhausted all of their options, like their pit of despair is too deep, too painful, that this final escape is the only way, the light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. While it hasn't been my journey, it has been the journey of my child. I've witnessed the devastating effects of this disease, the roller coaster of good days and bad, the suffocating feelings of hopelessness, the highs and lows, the questioning of everyone and everything. But I have also witnessed the good that has come from this - the empathy for others that are struggling, not only with this but anything that life throws their way; the steadfast pursuit of the heart of Jesus despite the crippling effects that this illness can have; the determination to live life to its fullest, without limitations, without excuses, without shame.
*Since the first post, she decided to remove herself from her medications. It has been almost a year now, and while there have been some struggles, she is handling them, with Jesus at her side. While I understand that this is not the route that others would take (honestly, I tried to convince her to stay on them), it is working for her. I think that the best action that we, the ones on the outside looking in, could ever do is this : just be there, for any reason, for every reason, without judgment, without unwarranted advice, without prejudices, with our arms outstretched, and our hearts full of love. We don't have to understand. We don't have to have answers. We just need to be there.
*This road of hers is still difficult to navigate at times, but she is handling it well. I am so proud of all that she has accomplished and will continue to stand by her side, encouraging, loving, and fighting for her in any way that I can. She is still medication-free, choosing to instead use all natural methods in combating this ugly disease. This is her choice, and she recognizes that it is not for everyone. I am still on the outside looking in. I still don't fully understand. I still don't have any answers. But, I am there for her, every single time, and that is the best action that I can give her.