Thursday, January 20, 2011

Walk it off

I have a good friend who has been suffering with depression on his own for far too long. He's doing what I once did, suffering in silence, while trying to keep those moments in which he vents to a minimum. Had I known how and where to get the help that I needed ages ago, I would have. It was only by accident that I dragged myself to a hospital one day to get the aid I needed. As my personal history has shown, it wasn't enough, and I still made the attempt.

I fear that that is where my friend is headed. He may think he has a handle on it, but there's going to come a time when he blows that mental circuit, and he's going to do something to hurt himself without ever being fully aware of what he's doing. He's going to believe he's doing the right thing by hurting himself. He's going to think things will be fixed afterward. Instead, he'll end up starting on the road to recovery with a much harder start.

What gets me is the fact that it's his family that's keeping him from getting help. Life has provided him with several rough turns, and he ended up moving back under their roof. Since then, they have made it clear that those who pay the ills make the rules. He doesn't pay, so all he gets to do is follow the rules. He's a 22-year-old that's being treated like a five-year-old, and when he attempts to use reason on his parents, they come back at him with utter and complete nonsense.

The key is that mental illness is irrelevant. Willpower will win out. Thus, it would seem that he should "walk it off," or the much hated phrase in my book, "snap out of it." Let me tell you, if "snap out of it" were vaguely possible for any genuine illness out there, I'd start with my diabetes. That's not possible, as it is an actual illness, with physical issues at stake, and therefore has medications for it.

As does depression. If it was a matter of willing one's self into good mental health, there wouldn't be medications at all. Instead, there would be nothing but specially trained instructors who would teach people how to overcome what is only THOUGHT to be an illness. But it's real. It involves chemical imbalances in the brain, and the meds help to iron out such neurochemical difficulties.

And medication is just the start. If you break a leg badly enough, you'd get crutches to help you get around, and eventually go to physical therapy to learn to walk properly again. Well, the meds used for depression are like crutches. They help a patient become functional enough to get around. Therapy is what helps the same patient learn coping skills to deal with life and other hazards.

Ah, but word is that if my friend were to get the help he needs, he would be shunned by his family. "You dared to become ill? GET OUT!"

In a recent attempt to push him to do the right thing, or to get his family to do the right thing, I mentioned that if he were to develop cancer, they'd leap to his aid because it's far more "real." His response floored me. "If it was a matter of life or death, they'd pay for it. I'd need to pay it back one day though, that's the deal."

These people don't sound human. I could almost see it now, with him lying in a hospital emergency room after a serious car accident. He's conscious, but in a bad way. He's going to be taken in for emergency surgery, when his mother pulls out a contract that says he'll be paying them back as soon as he's healed. If he doesn't sign, there'll be no surgery, and he can just die because they refuse to pay the surgeon. Can you imagine if he got cancer? (G-d forbid!) The cost of all those hospitalizations could well be up to $1,000,000 if it's a particularly troublesome form of cancer that won't leave his body easily! Would they end his life if he couldn't pay them back later?

Let me tell you, if my father pulled any such thing when it came to my health, I;d tell him to leave and never come back. I'd opt for death rather than deal with "people" like that. (Thankfully, I don't have to worry about such things, but still...)

My friend needs help. His family is making things worse for him. He doesn't have it within himself to do what I did, and simply turn away from family that doesn't "believe" in the illnesses I have. Then again, I didn't have much of a choice. No one would even take me in after that 97-day hospital stay.

One of my issues is that if someone is going to become a parent, they need to be prepared to love their kids, regardless of the physical and mental defects. This is illness we're talking about, not behavior. It's not like my friend is out committing crimes while drunk or stoned. He's sick. But it seems to me that his parents didn't want a child to love; they wanted an asset that was productive. That's not a reason to have kids...ever. They should have built nice little stock portfolios instead of having a son.

I want to help my friend. I really do. But I don't see how it can be done while he lives under the roof of such oppressive "people." They might be human, but they're far from humane. And I could probably talk to them until I was blue in the face; they wouldn't listen, as my depression would never be real to them. And that would just make things worse for my friend, I think.

I feel slightly better after being able to rant. I just wish there was more I could do.

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