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It's Time We Start to Talk About Depression Like the Common Illness That It Is

02/29/2016 08:29 am ET | Updated Mar 01, 2016
  • Eileen O'Connor Eileen O’Connor lives life to the fullest. With her unapologetic love for wine and honest humor, she looks at life through rose-colored glasses.
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When you have the flu, you feel horrible. You lie in bed in the fetal position. You don't try to hide it from everyone. You don't try to deal with it all on your own. You let others know that you're sick and that you need their help.

When the flu knocks the socks right off of you, you run to the doctor, talk openly about your symptoms and have no problem taking any medication the doctor prescribes. Because you don't want to feel that lousy anymore. You want to feel like yourself again.

There are ways you can try to prevent the flu. Eat healthy. Exercise. Get a flu shot. Wash your hands regularly. Take vitamins. But even when you do all of these things, you can still come down with a nasty case of the flu.

There are many ways to treat the flu. Drink a hot toddy. Take medicine. See the doctor. Self medicate. Wait it out. Just to name a few.

The flu happens. It can affect anyone, at any time. It doesn't matter what race you are. It doesn't matter what age you are. It doesn't matter if you're male or female. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor.

The flu doesn't discriminate. It's universal. It can happen to anyone at anytime. And no one judges you if you get the flu. It's perfectly acceptable.

We need to start treating depression like it's the flu.

After giving birth, I was screened for depression like every hour on the hour. So much so that I thought, I don't know, am I depressed? I have had many friends that suffered postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is totally acceptable nowadays. It happens. It's real.

Doctors and nurses and new moms know what to look for and it's taken very seriously. That's how every other form of depression needs to be looked at. And I really think most people do think of it that way. Except the people who are actually suffering with depression.

When I lost my parents at a young age I went through a really rough time. I was depressed for a long time. But that makes sense. I was grieving. And that's acceptable. But when everything in your life is going great and there is no reason for you to be so sad, it can be so very scary.

This is a tough subject to talk about for a lot of people. It's hard for people to admit to themselves that there is a problem. Depression is such a crazy illness that sometimes people don't even know they have it. It needs to stop being referred to as a mental illness. Because that scares people. And that comes with such a stigma. It's too harsh a label. It's just an illness. And like any other illness, left untreated, it can kill you.

When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life, well hang on

It was amazing to me to realize just how many people had gone through similar things as me. But no one knows these things until you start the conversation. So let's start the freaking conversation.

I am medicated to treat my depression. I love when people tell me they can't believe I'm medicated. You seem so happy. Yes because I'm freaking medicated. Just like when people find out I use head and shoulders, yet I don't have dandruff. Think about it.

I have people tell me that they don't like putting chemicals into their bodies. They prefer exercise or meditation to relieve their stress. And if that works for you, that's awesome. But stress is not depression. Depression is something that is really hard to get back out of once you're in it.

The only problem with taking meds is they make you feel so good that you think you don't need them anymore. I learned that lesson the hard way. I have gone off my meds. Huge mistake.

Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

I was thrown into the worst depression of my life. I visited a place I never want to go to again. I am so very lucky, though. I'm at a stage in my life where I don't care what others think. I was able to reach out to family and friends and let them know the depths of hell I was in.

I hit rock bottom one day when I was sitting on a lawn chair in my backyard. The feeling of hopelessness that I felt was so intense. It wrapped itself around me and was literally squeezing the life out of me.

I can vividly remember staring at my garage. Knowing I could be out of this awful pain. My kids were there and I honestly remember thinking that they would be fine without me. This did not scare me as much as it should have. But I knew I was in trouble.

I have seen first hand what suicide can do to a family. How it just rips it competely apart. How no one's life is ever going to be the same. How shattered it makes people. All the pieces can be glued back together, but everyone is still broken forever.

I knew the thoughts I was thinking were irrational. But I couldn't stop thinking them. I called my doctor from that lawn chair. And then I called Beau and told him how bad I was. I knew I had to tell people. I knew that was my only way out. I called a few more people.

Those calls saved me. Talking about it saved me. Letting people know the pain I was in saved me.

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it's time to sing along
When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you've had too much
Of this life, well hang on

I was not alone. I still had this tiny little part of my brain working properly. I was so lucky.

I used to like to keep my depression private. I didn't want people to know. It was so isolating. I felt like a loser. I thought everyone had their sh*t together except me. I was embarassed.

But not anymore. I have learned how universal depression is. I have come to terms with having to be medicated the rest of my life and I'm totally fine with that. As long as I never feel that pain again. It will be worth it.

I have been in that dark hole. Stuck at the bottom of a well with no way out in sight. It's terrifying.

When a person takes their life, it always pains me to hear someone say they took the easy way out. Because when you're suffering from true depression you are convinced your loved ones will be better off without you. In your head it is the only option that makes sense. You are so trapped with your own thoughts. There is nothing easy about it.

Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don't throw your hand, oh no

If you have never been in this situation, you are very fortunate. It is the scariest place that you ever want to find yourself. It's a feeling of desperation that can't be explained. You can be sitting there holding your children knowing how much they need you, yet hurting so much that you are considering leaving them forever.

Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

Life is freaking hard. Really hard. There are ups and downs and for some reason we are led to believe that everyone else has it better. That we are the only ones suffering. That is just not true.

Depression is real. It can't be swept under the rug. We need to deal with it. Now. Before it's too late.

Doctors should be screening everyone. Not just new moms. Depression can happen at any time. And it needs to be treated. Like the common illness it is.

If you're on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on

Everyone struggles at some point. Start asking your friends and I bet my bottom dollar down that each and every one of them has a story. My friends and I have all shared our stories and it's saved us all. It's amazing how similar we all are.

So start the damn conversation. There is no need to suffer alone. There is no need to suffer in silence. There's just no need to suffer. Tell someone. Anyone. Talk about it. You are not alone.

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes
You are not alone

Read more at No Wire Hangers, Ever blog.

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If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

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