Two words I am proud to say

For all the people out there who happen to be depressed or addicted, this is for you…

DEPRESSION. ADDICTION. There, I said them and I’m still okay. So are you.

Let me add another word to mix - STIGMA. What is stigma? It is the negative stereotyping people do around things like depression and addiction. Why do people do this? fear. And they are afraid because they don’t know. The cycle feeds itself. Ignorance, fear, stigma, shame, silence, ignorance, fear….

Because I have already gone ahead and let the internet universe know I have experienced both depression and addiction (in fact these two things often come together - it’s called concurrent disorders) I’m going to let it all out and make myself the poster girl for both forbidden words.

And that is all they are, is words. They are words used to describe a state that unfortunately so many of us know all too well - but won’t talk about. Ironically, one of the best ways to become free from these experiences, described by the words depression and addiction - is to talk about them.

What is depression? Well, it’s basically a perspective that doesn’t serve you well. It’s made up of a number of cognitive distortions that develop over time, through experience and genetics. Eventually your brain chemistry goes off balance and your thoughts and emotions become unmanageable. Some people can cover up the way they are feeling, others can’t. Some people cannot get out of bed, some people spend every day of their lives believing they are hated.

What is addiction? It is an attempt to ease pain or to avoid pain, through the learned use of a substance or behaviour. Even though we know the long-term effects of this use or behaviour is bad for our health and safety we do it anyway for the short term relief. Addictive behaviors and substances can alter the brain chemicals and make our dependency so intense that we could die without our vices. Addiction is a curable problem, but in many cases we work from the perspective of harm reduction, trying to help the individuals who are addicted, as well as the families and communities they live with.

Depression and addiction are not only a part of my vocabulary, they are a part of my life. The more I learn about them and the more I talk about them, the less power they have over me, and the people I love. It is a struggle however, everyday, to be a person who talks about it. Part of the nature of both depression and addiction, is that people tend to isolate themselves. They are not likely to share and reach out and do all the work that it takes to shine some light and understanding on the subjects.

So for those of us who are lying in bed, or crying inside or scared to death someone might find out you are suffering. I am writing this for you.

“In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem.” CAMH

We are not alone here. We are a massive community of people who experience this pain. Talking about it, could be your way out - or out faster. People do heal from depression and addiction.

If you want to talk about either one of these words with me, I would be honoured to talk with you.

Karyn Dowdall

mom. wife. athlete. friend. writer. coach. teacher. addict. depressed.

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