My name is Amy Steele.
I am a journalist, a nonprofit writer, a volunteer, a vegan, a medical assistant, a feminist, a compassionate individual.
I have major depression, anxiety and non-specified mood disorder.
everyone’s afraid of the truth. it’s easier to judge. to avoid. to stigmatize.
When I was 16, I developed bouts of anxiety when traveling to France –had an incident on the plane– but was fine during the exchange program. In college, I spoke to some therapists about feeling sad but no one ever said I needed medication or I was depressed. When I drove X-Country at 22, it got a bit worse. I felt strange driving in some wide open spaces or when camping but I managed it through visualization and breathing. After my first year of graduate school in Washington, DC, my housemate and I drove South and I just couldn’t make it beyond North Carolina. I went home to Boston and finished my masters degree at Boston University. I went to a psychiatrist and he prescribed Xanax which helped.
I really don’t remember anyone officially diagnosing me with depression but I had an awful time finding the correct medication and a decent psychiatrist. I started meds at age 27. I’ve tried beta-blockers, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Serzone, Abilify, Lexapro, Wellbutrin and many others. I’m now 42 and in the hands of a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital department of psychiatry. I’m taking cymbalta for the depression, clonipin for my anxiety and topamax to keep my mood from swinging too far out-of-bounds (don’t want to be yelling or crying too much).
Over the years I’ve gained weight, lost weight and felt crappy. I’ve been briefly and mistakenly hospitalized and lost many friends. I’ve had people unreasonably judge me. I’ve had people who know nothing about me call me “bat shit crazy” or “insane” when I’m not. I’m *still* being harassed online due to my mental illness. I had to change my phone number and email and twitter. I lost my best friend two years ago because I had a breakdown and he cowardly wanted to get married and end our friendship.
People often don’t want to take the time to understand what you’re going through. Those are the people who should feel shame. Those people are despicable. If I had cancer or a physical illness, I wouldn’t be judged at all but because mental illness is just that people think that we have some sort of control over the chemical breakdown of our brains. A guy recently told me it was all “mind over matter” and being on meds was “BS.”
We do the best we can. We need support. We don’t need the stigma. We don’t need to be put into a box and told we’re having a bad day or going off the edge or that we’re crazy or that we’re having a meltdown. Don’t do that to us. You can hug us. You can listen but don’t label us.
I have an illness that I’m managing with a very good therapist (I’ve been seeing him for eight years), an excellent psychiatrist and medication. It’s not easy. I have good days and bad days and better days and worse days. I walk. I eat well. I do yoga.
My name is Amy, and I have No Shame.
Please visit The SIWE Project to share their stories and hear others’ accounts of their battles with mental illness and to check out @thesiweproject on twitter, hashtag #NoShame.