I have been watching all the videos from Skepticon IV and I really wish I could have been there. I particularly liked Hemant’s and Greta’s presentations. While I am more an more comfortable with my atheism, it is still sometimes a lonely existence and I think of how fun it would be to share an experience like this with like-minded people. Unfortunately my schedule does not easily allow for this (nor does my budget). However I’m getting more bold about revealing my atheism and in turn, I’m finding out that some people around me share my point of view.
I also want to acknowledge JT Eberhard’s presentation about mental illness. I have struggled in the past with major depression (was nearly hospitalized) and moderate anxiety. While my family was unflinchingly supportive as I sought out help, my husband was slower to come around because he viewed it as a sign of weakness (if you saw JT’s speech, this is mentioned). After the first two weeks I was in therapy and on medication, I made a complete turnaround. I was able to stop taking my meds (only to go back on temporarily a few years later) and have come to pay more attention to my moods. Going through treatment taught me to get more in touch with my emotions, since bottling them up to not burden anyone doesn’t really work all that well. In fact it usually results in another relapse. Now when I start getting that panicky feeling for no reason, I can often talk myself down because I now recognize it for what it is, a total overreaction by my flight or flight response. And if I’m in a funk for more than a few days, I take a look at what I’m doing and how I’m being. Often if I shake up my routine a bit and get in more sunshine and activity I can avoid that downward slope into depression (I’m solar powered, who knew?). This is what works for me, and I want to avoid going back on meds because I hate that fuzzy feeling I get when I’m on them. Yet I know that if I reached a point where shaking up my life a bit will not pull me out, I would not hesitate to seek out counseling and medication if warranted. They really can be a miracle for those suffering.
Before I was prescribed Prozac for the first time I was sleeping 12-14 hours a day and still moving through my waking life as if I were half-asleep. I would cry at damn near any perceived slight or frustration, and I would have random panic attacks for no good reason (it was fun feeling like I couldn’t leave the restroom at work without totally flipping out). When I finally decided to seek out a referral from my regular doctor, the combination of fear, relief, and disappointment in myself triggered a 2-day crying jag. That right there let me know I was on the right path.
I was tired of not being able to function. I was tired of trying to fake normalcy for everyone around me. I no longer wanted to live the way I was, but I wanted to live. JT is right, we need to remove the stigma on mental illness. Being depressed is not a sign of weakness, having hallucinations is not a sign of weakness, having panic attacks is not a sign of weakness. They are signs that there is a chemical imbalance that needs to be corrected. Much like diabetes, or hyperthyroidism, or any number of diseases and disorders that require maintenance medication. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness.
It is a sign that you are strong enough to realize you need help.