Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This morning, I took my Lexapro because of Robin Williams.

This morning, I took my Lexapro because of Robin Williams.

I had two small mental reminders to myself yesterday to get my week back on track: remember the dog's flea+heartworm pills, and get back on track with my own medication. Only one of those things happened...and it involves flea prevention. Like a lot of people, I "forgot" my own medication, thereby forgetting to prioritize myself. One of those "I'll get to it right after this" tasks that never come to fruition.

I had a hectic July. Unfortunately, like a dog or a child, whenever I get out of my routine I tend to let things slip, namely my health. Before I departed for my trip, I was proud that I refilled my prescription in a timely fashion. I was really going to stay on top of it this time. But like countless other times before, the refilled prescription never made it out of my suitcase. Several other events in July made the 5 seconds it would've taken to swallow a pill seem like it would've taken hours. I hate to start and stop medication (as I am wont to do when I am trying and failing to be a model patient), so instead I dream up the "perfect time" to start my medication again. For some reason, "now" never seems like a good idea.

On top of everything else wrong with my health, I have major depressive disorder. Both genetics and environmental factors are textbook guesses as to the cause of MDD, and I fall into this category. Given my father's own death by suicide and my struggles with my physical disability, I don't believe I had much of a fighting chance in avoiding such a diagnosis. What I do believe, however, is in my fighting chance not to meet such an undue fate. My fate is not sealed by depression or genetics, and I consider myself one of many in my family who will honor my father's legacy by living the life he was medically incapable of living.

I am not ashamed to admit my diagnosis. In fact, it came at a time when I was just starting to learn how to become an open book about my disability, which was a major step in me accepting myself. It sounds odd, but I spent a majority of my life not accepting the disability as part of my life. By owning it, I learned not to let it control me. Ironically, it's easier to wear the "badge of honor" from depression than it is from Spina Bifida. Society tells me Spina Bifida is not my fault. Only part of society tells me that depression is not my fault. And nothing makes my voice louder than the ignorant members of society who invalidate my father's memory or my own struggle by calling it a "choice".

Despite being unashamed, my health (physical and mental) is a battle that I liken to wrestling an alligator. Sometimes you're the alligator, and other days you're the human pinned to the floor. With the mental factor, and you have yourself a chicken-and-egg debacle: Am I depressed because of my father, or because of my disability? Am I sad about my mobility issues, or does my depression lead me to be sad about my mobility issues? Is it more like a Venn diagram? And in this over-complication of things is me "forgetting" to take my pills, waiting for the "perfect time" to restart.

The "perfect time" came yesterday as I drove home from the grocery store, hearing over the radio airwaves that a beloved actor had taken his own life. I pulled over and immediately dialed my mother, unable to relay more than just that he was dead, and suicide was suspected. At the point where the "suicide" bomb was dropped, I was unable to listen to further details. My family is all too familiar with the pain of losing a beloved man who appeared to be happy on the surface. My own father was a kind and well-liked man whose death by his own hand might never make sense in our lifetime.

In the absence of my own father, Robin Williams was one of those Hollywood dad characters from my childhood that always managed to strike a chord with me. One of the films I quote most, Mrs. Doubtfire, debuted a few years after my father's death at a time when I was just starting to think it might be OK to laugh again. I associate the film with a time in my life where any small fraction of happiness was clung to with desperation. I still quote the film regularly with friends I watched the movie with in junior high. In fact, four days before his death I was on Facebook making Mrs. Doubtfire jokes...yet again. 

I normally don't jump on the public grief bandwagon. I read the news, perhaps express my sympathies publicly once or twice, but I try to keep a respectable distance between myself and the story. At the root of it, in that gap between the public and "the story" is a person and their grieving family. To express more than just sympathy in divulging actual grief seems disingenuous to a person that I did not know personally. However, watching the world grieve for such a beloved man struck very close to home.

When bad things happen, it can be difficult to turn to Facebook. None of us are immune to being hell-bent on ramming our opinions down the gullet of social media. However, the outpouring I saw yesterday, at least on my feed (thank you all), was a positive one. Suicide prevention hotline numbers, mental health awareness memes and articles. For once, it felt like the collective was taking a positive approach to our responsibilities as contributors to "the machine". While I don't have high hopes that this will continue, my real hope is that the loss of such a treasured person will educate the ignorant on the issue. If the funniest man on earth is not immune to the pain and despair that depression brings, no one is.

In an article by Forbes so well-timed it couldn't have been scripted, it was reported that researchers at Johns Hopkins may have identified a genetic biomarker that could indicate suicidal behavior. This gives me hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. This could give survivors of suicide a MEDICAL answer to their long-unanswered question: why? This could be the tangible response we are looking for to silence the ignorant who claim that suicide is a "choice". 

This morning, I drink to that with a gulp of water and my forgotten pill. Taking care of oneself is a learned skill. I do not come by it naturally. Nature, in fact, works against me on my quest for better physical and mental health. But before me are those who led by example, fallen heroes in their own wars, who remind me that tomorrow is, indeed, another day and that I can actually try again.

There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighborhoods, in different areas of the country - and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months... even years at a time. But if there's love, dear... those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you, poppet, you're going to be all right... bye-bye. - Eugenia Doubtfire 


Mandy McFarlane said...

Linds, I love you morethan words can describe. You are a brave soul, and I have always admired your attitude toward the this gs in life that you have had no control over. I have always looked up to you in that aspect. You are my friemd,my sister, and part of the reason I am who I am today.

Lindsie said...

Thanks, Mango :D Love you.