Time flies when you are medicated”, said Casey Bloom. “I remember grabbing a knife and my mom taking it from my hands and begging me to calm down. That was when I knew there was a problem, I didn’t care about if my mom knew, I was clearly needing help”.
It’s been seven years since Bloom sought help after experiencing a bad episode when she was starting out in college. Now a recent college graduate, 25-year-old Bloom defies the social stigma of what it means to have anxiety and depression. Bloom sought out the help she needed thanks to the support she has from friends and family. When asked, who is the most supportive and understanding person(s) in your life, Bloom responded, “my mom hands down.” Bloom is currently working with others who are in need of help at a rehabilitation center.
Bloom is one of the many people who are willing to talk about anxiety and depression, which had earlier been considered a taboo to speak about. Those who have one or both of these disorders are flipping the script and opening up to conversations.
“I was probably 14 years old when my family made me see a psychiatrist” said Courtnee Silverio. After visiting her psychiatrist, she began to notice a change in herself. At first, Silverio hated opening up to a complete stranger to talk about her problems, but it ultimately worked for her benefit.
Silverio is now almost 24 years old and manages her depression and anxiety along with the other problems she has such as bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (ocd).
Those who have depression and anxiety are often seen as sad individuals, who can’t do anything to help themselves. The constant battle of trying to get out of bed and failing is a serious issue for some. However, that is not the case for everyone.
“A typical day is normally always fast paced, it never stops”, says Silverio, “which doesn’t help, but I have to pay bills somehow. I’m normally pretty monotone throughout the day”.
Silverio and Bloom, both have a family history of mental illness. This history can greatly increase the likelihood of an offspring having the same illness. Such a history can be detrimental, but also lifesaving because those who already have these disorders can predict and see the signs in those they love, and get them the help they need.
Millions of people in the United States suffer from anxiety and depression and many of the sufferers are women. In the 1900s, a woman could be sent to a psychiatric hospital for menstrual related anger or disobedience. In all actuality she could have just been suffering a reaction from depression. Women would often become hysterical once they were committed to the ward. One of the punishments used against hysterical patients was hydrotherapy, where the patient was forcefully restrained in a bath tub for hours or even days at a time while being blasted by a powerful water jet. Lobotomy was another popular form of treatment where the doctor would make an incision into the prefrontal lobe of the brain and was believed to rid the patient of insanity while leaving them fully functional.
Today, modern medicine has made tremendous changes and strides in treating mental illnesses, but yet we still have a stigma against those who suffer from painfully real mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Paula Page said she sees, “at least three or four” patients a week with depression and/or anxiety related issues.
When asked about how one can determine if they are suffering from depression, Page said they use the “Zung Scale” and a series of questionnaires. The Zung Scale is an evaluation questionnaire that a patient can fill out by themselves. It’s a series of self-rating questions about how the patient behaves and experiences, with answers ranging from least likely to most likely. If a patient is diagnosed to be depressed, the doctor or practitioner will then go on and proceed with determining how extensive the depression is.
If we feel the patient might have suicidal tendencies, we’ll ask them if they ever thought about suicide,” said Page, “and if the answer is yes, the next step to ask is if they have ever thought about killing themselves. If the answer is yes, we’ll then ask if they have a plan on how to carry it out. And if they have a plan we will then make a call and have them taken to Baptist Downtown for treatment”.
Medication is usually determined by trial and error. When determining what works for each patient, history and biology are the primary factors that are used to map the treatment plan.
The medication I am prescribed is called Lexapro and I am on the highest dosage, 40mg daily” said Summer Collins. “I didn’t know I had anxiety until I tried smoking weed for the first time with my brother and I experienced the worst reaction that I can’t even begin to explain” she said.
Collins is 24 years old and works in the biohazard remediation field. She regularly talks to a therapist due to her job and the scenes she encounters, while also visiting for her anxiety and depression issues.
These women live on with their illnesses. It is their reality, but it does not stop them from living their life to the best they can. Living with these illnesses does not make them weak. They fight and battle every day. It can be easier for some, but it’s the same battle nonetheless.
24-year-old Samantha Critchlow says, “I feel like it makes me emotionally stronger, because you’re your worst enemy. There’re days where they win and there’re days where I win. I win mostly, but people relapse and its hard because you win for so long that it just takes one thing to break the streak”.
To help fight and cope, Critchlow, like many others, finds ways to keep herself in control and release her thoughts to help ease and relax rather than taking medication.
I love writing and reading. I get into fits where I write for hours to days on end and I usually incorporate my emotions into it. It’s a release, a place where my emotions become things and people and I can personify them, and then that’s my release because the thoughts and moods are no longer a part of me, but a part of the story, and that’s where they stay for the rest of the time. I love to read. It’s a way to escape from the dark days. It helps, a lot.”