With the exception of a few pictures I lost everything I own: decades of family photos, heirlooms, and writings--- yet I cope. I take on one battle after another. I learn from my mistakes and try to make my third- world country existence seem like a season of Survival. This perhaps is my strategy and so far it has kept me from crumbling under the weight.
But the battle of depression is no easy task and blindsides me every time. Of course I want to live. I am making plans to work out of my circumstances, rebuild my life and live a mainstream life again. But as is the nature of depression, I know that the longer that I am without my medication, feelings of guilt and past regrets will begin to fill my mind. Suicidal ideations will cloud my thinking. I will be less able to advocate for myself and will begin to imagine ways to die.
Despite my positive outlook on the future of ending homelessness, today is a day that I want to “throw in the towel.” I want to go onto my social media page and tell the world that I have given up. Not because of my housing circumstances, but because at this moment I have been without my medication for more than a month and the symptoms of depression are creeping up on me.
I am dumbfounded as to why members of the professional community don’t get this. Why they fail to treat depression with the urgency that it deserves. In this group I include pharmacists, emergency care workers, social workers, and on. If I went to any one of these professionals today, not one would be able to guarantee me the medication that I am needing to survive. Not one of them could ensure that the missing chemicals that my brain is missing will be restored in time to save me.
Each time I have been in this situation, I have let some professional know that I suffer from major depression. The psychiatric emergency staff at the University Of Michigan hospital tells me that they don’t fill prescriptions. The pharmacist tells me that he is not responsible for my copays or lack of insurance. The social worker at the Michigan Department of Human Services has no appointments available to help me get on some type of insurance and my mention of needing medication for major depression gives me no priority or a reason to return my call. There are no friends or family that I can call on who has enough cash to get me a thirty-day supply of medication.
As I work my way through this maze, I think about Robin Williams again. I know that everyone desires to live. I try to imagine what impediments denied him the treatment he needed to survive. Although prescription affordability is an issue for those of us experiencing poverty, it is only one of the reasons why symptoms go untreated.
We live in a world where mental illness is still considered taboo. Our society is still slow about naming depression as a life threatening disease that requires constant monitoring and treatment like any other chronic ailment. We still drag our feet in getting the word out that depression affects people from all walks of life and can cripple even the best.
While we live in a world where twenty-first century treatment in medication for mental illness is more advanced than ever, stereotypes, bureaucracy, and ignorance keeps treatment inaccessible to many of us when we need it.
The real tragedy of Robin Williams is that probably less than a percent of the throngs who mourn him would even bother to understand the symptoms of this common disease. Had anyone in his immediate life understood the warning signs, he might still be alive. Unfortunately, as I write this, there is no one in my surroundings that will feel the urgency of my plight. I will continue to fight as I always have and pray for myself that I will win another battle in this ongoing war against major depression.