Heads up. I’m about to discuss some heavy stuff in this article, namely disability, depression, and suicidal thoughts. I am not at risk of self harm now, but I’m finally ready to discuss my fight with clinical depression. If you would rather not read about that, this is not the article for you.
Did I mention I was diagnosed with major (clinical) depression?
Yep. I can add that to my list of disorders now. I guess I should explain what happened there. It’s not something I have written about here yet because it’s just so dark and uncomfortable to talk about, but I feel like I’m at the point now where I can be open about it. Mental illness is so stigmatized in society, I suppose I was a little embarrassed to discuss it. I strongly feel that it will remain a taboo topic until people normalize it, so here goes nothing.
I had mentioned before that I was applying for disability. It has been a long and drawn out process, and felt absolutely hopeless at times. I have a good lawyer with a good track record, but he is ruthlessly blunt, and isn’t afraid to call out someone who he suspects is trying to cheat the system and get disability when they don’t really need it. I completely understand and respect that, but at one point I was on the receiving end of his sharp accusations. About six months or so ago, having been growing bored with my life considering I can’t work and there isn’t much I can do to busy my hopelessly ambitious mind, I asked him if I would be allowed to take some college classes.
Back in the spring of 2017, I took a social media marketing class. It was just something to do. One of my friends was in the class and invited me to join him, offering to let me carpool there and back with him. My parents pitched in to cover the $600 bill as an epic birthday present, and I passed the class with flying colors. My friend and I became well acquainted with our teacher, and we stayed in touch. She was so impressed with my work ethic and drive to learn, she encouraged me to take her classes on web and video game design. I had confided in her about my health conditions, and she was sympathetic to my struggles, so I wasn’t anxious about taking her classes. I knew that if I was struggling, she would accomodate me.
When I talked to my lawyer about it, however, his attitude towards me became suddenly cold and sharp. He told me that I can’t take any classes. If I can go to school, the disability office will assume I am able to work. “If you think you can handle going to school, that’s great. we can drop your case and you can do that instead.” He said, matter-of-factly, in a way that felt like an accusation. “It’s a good thing not to be disabled.” He added as a second condescending blow. It felt as though he thought I was a fraud, claiming that I am disabled when I can obviously do normal things like getting an education. I explained that I do have health conditions that hold me back, and I knew there was a high chance I would fail the classes because I would inevitably miss some days, but I was bored with my life and I wanted to at least try, for the sake of my mental health.
He suggested that if I were to go ahead and try to go to school, failure would actually help my disability case. I understood his point, but doing that would incur such a large financial burden on me while Justin and I are already struggling to stay above water, and I didn’t want to make my disability case drag on for any longer than it was going to already. It’s apparent that I am indeed disabled, chasing pipe dreams of successfully completing college without major health repercussions would only be a sick joke with my failure as the punchline. Can you imagine how pathetic that would make me feel? I couldn’t bring myself to risk putting us in so much debt so I could have an expensive hobby.
I was faced with a choice; give up on hopes of an education, at least for now, or stay quiet and complacent doing nothing to enrich my bored mind but in doing so ensure financial stability for the rest of my life when my disability case is won.
It was a crushing blow to me. I left his office in tears, telling him that I couldn’t take that financial risk and insisting that I was only looking for something to make my life less stagnant and isolated. I did see what I believe to be quiet pain on his face when he realized how much that had broken me, but he didn’t have anything comforting to say. I left his office, and told my fiancee, Justin, to take me to a mental health clinic not far from our home.
I wanted to die. I sincerely wanted my life to be over in that moment, and the realization of that terrified me. I was doing my best to keep those thoughts at bay, and went into the clinic with hopes that they would be able to help me. I remember sitting in the lobby, filling out the paperwork to be seen. Justin sat quietly next to me, worried and late for work, but not about to leave my side. A radio played a local top hits station. The music was too upbeat and mainstream, and felt surreal considering the state of mind I was in. After I filled out the paperwork, I sat there, trying to force reassuring smiles at Justin while clutching tissues in my hands and wiping away the tears that wouldn’t stop coming, shaking and doing my best not to start ugly crying in the middle of the open lobby. I remember feeling like such a melodramatic idiot, but I knew that going home without taking steps to get help would be dangerous. I didn’t want to hurt my family by killing myself, but I felt so worthless and helpless, I knew that I needed help. I was afraid of what I might do if I was left alone in that despair.
My name was called, and I went to meet the therapist who would evaluate me. I was diagnosed with major (clinical) depression, and they scheduled a meeting with my new therapist, Julie. There was something about just having the plan to get help that seemed to alleviate the immediate sense of danger I was feeling. They told me I could go home, so I did. I had gone in fully expecting that I might be checked in for observation, but that wasn’t the case. It was a relief, but I remember still being afraid to be alone with my thoughts, so I let myself go straight to bed when I got home, even though it was still early in the day. I was still quite depressed when I woke up, but it wasn’t as bad. I felt a lot better after a couple of days went by.
Julie turned out to be pretty awesome. To be honest, I was pretty nervous about meeting with her. I had spoken with therapists in the past, and I never really clicked with any of them. One kept pushing me to apply for more jobs, which only made me feel worse because I had already tried working twice before and my health forced me to have to quit both times. It was pretty clear that I can’t obtain gainful employment, and my endocrinologist at the time backed me on that. Julie was different. She was easy to talk to, and seemed to genuinely care about what I was going through. I knew she had a massive caseload of clients like myself, but she never made me feel like I was just another part of her job. She listened actively and helped as much as she knew how, and helped me learn how to work through the tough emotions I had been struggling to sort through on my own.
It was determined that my depression was likely a product of hormonal imbalances as much as emotional trauma from living with a debilitating illness along with grappling with the social stigmas and harsh misjudgments attached to that.
Because my Panhypopituitarism was determined to be the main cause of my depression, they decided against prescribing any psychoactive medications and instead encouraged me to work closely with my endocrinologist to balance my hormone levels properly while seeing my therapist regularly to work through the emotional traumas that made up the other half of my depression.
During this time, I decided that not being allowed to go to college didn’t mean I had to stop learning. I decided to take it upon myself to further my beginner’s knowledge of Japanese from High School and learn more. I am proud to say that now; 日本語をちょっと話セます。しかし、漢字をよく読めません。でも、勉強するががんばります！ I became active on a language sharing app called HelloTalk, and used Duolingo and JapanesePod101 to study. In recent months, I have fallen behind, but I can still speak Japanese well enough that I was able to hold an albeit short and simple conversation with a Japanese family at a cafe a while back!
Back on the topic of my depression; I wasn’t cured overnight. I still falter and have dark thoughts on occasion, but thanks to Julie’s help, I am able to determine when those thoughts and emotions are irrational and stemming from my hormonal imbalances, and I use that knowledge to tame it by reminding myself that it will eventually pass on its own. When those thoughts come as a result of the self-loathing I have obtained from many negative experiences being misjudged and harassed by ableists who think they know me and abusers who just want to hurt me, I set those thoughts aside for later, knowing I could talk to Julie about it next time I saw her.
Unfortunately, Julie just transferred to a new job. Further misfortune, the clinic I was seeing her at has no other therapists who can fit me into their schedules. A friend of mine who also happened to be one of Julie’s clients has felt abandoned by them. We both feel like they are sweeping us under the rug, and neither of us are currently getting the kind of therapy we need. I know he struggles more than I do, and the way the both of us have been sidelined feels so irresponsible to me. I could go into a rant about it, but I don’t want to shame the clinic. They are short staffed, I understand the dilemma. I’m not upset with Julie either, she was and always will be the best. She was the one who led me out of that darkness and taught me how to beat it, like some grandmaster in a fighting anime. 先生、ありがとう。
My journey out of depression is still at its peak, but it’s looking better than it used to. I hope that being open about it and discussing it like any other life affecting topic might take some of the power away from it.
As a matter of fact, I have plans to open the conversation further by hosting weekly group therapy streams on my Twitch channel. Starting next Wednesday, I’ll be hosting the group chat live from 3pm until 5pm. We’ll spend the first and last half hour chatting in my discord channel and doodling on Flockdraw, and play JackBox games for the rest of the time. All the while, we’ll be opening up about what we go though, sharing our experiences while also cracking jokes about it (humor is damn good medicine). Anyone can watch and listen, but only people who I know and trust will be allowed to participate in the voice chat and games.
Thanks for reading this. ❤
I’ve got a bigger life update article in the works. Please keep an eye out for that one within the next few days! It has some extra details about my physical health, and some good news as well!