88 Sticks of Butter

10 Oct

Gone. Which is the equivalent of 22 pounds of fat. I know it’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it is great progress, from a personal standpoint. Coming from someone who would gain 2-4 pounds a week this time last year, regardless of what I did, this is HUGE. So after all this time of waiting around to see if my 3rd brain surgery was successful from April 2k12, it appears as though it was indeed. And if that’s not a reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is!

Maybe the fact that today is World Mental Health Day gives me another reason to celebrate. For overcoming a somewhat severe mental illness, that was caused by a major physical illness. The brain tumor I used to have in tow caused me to have Cushing’s Disease, which is horrible in and of itself.  My depression (caused by Cushing’s but unbeknownst to anyone at the time) is what landed me back on US soil after having spent the previous 20 months living/working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. Major Depression is the diagnosis that was given to me that was the reason I spent 28 days living on a psychiatric ward of a hospital in Washington D.C. This depression is the reason I had to be on 4 potent psychotropic medications for a duration of many months. This depression is what caused me to pretty much retract entirely from society, to withdraw from my loved ones, colleagues, and life in general. This depression is what caused my mind to only entertain suicidal thoughts. This depression is something I overcame.

To see me today versus where I was when I first came back from Ethiopia is amazing. Granted I am many pounds heavier, I am so much healthier. From a mental and physical health perspective, I am “punishing it” (in the words of my dear friend, Kate Boyd)! I feel better than I have in ages, and recent blood work revealed that I am in fact pretty damn healthy. Thanks to modern medicine, I no longer have a brain tumor, and a hormone that was once insanely out of whack and the cause of my disease (cortisol, aka my personal devil), is finally within the “normal” range. Now that my body is on the verge of being disease-free and things are returning to the way they once were, weight loss should (and already has) occur. It’s something I’m going to have to work for, as the pounds won’t just fall off, but it’s a commitment I’m more than willing to make.

World Mental Health Day seeks to raise awareness for a problem that plagues many people worldwide. I know from experience that having a mental illness is not fun for anyone involved, but it is something that can be treated. But above all else, people with mental health issues are still people. They deserve the same respect you’d give to a person without mental illness. Stigma needs to be decreased when it comes to dealing with people who have mental health issues, as they are much more common than you may think.

I don’t know what I’d be doing right now had I not had this crazy setback related to medical problems and I’d probably still be living overseas. I’m not ashamed of my past diagnosis and I’m still unsure of what the future holds. I’m pretty sure no one sets out in life with the dream of having mental health issues one day, but life events and certain medical conditions can cause it to simply happen to people just like you (and me!). 

While it was hella strange to go through some of the stuff I’ve been through over the past year and a half, I don’t have any regrets. Surely I wish I had never been burdened with a brain tumor that caused Cushing’s Disease, but it happened, and no one can go back in time and change that. I have learned so many life lessons about myself and others throughout this whole ordeal, and ultimately, it has made me a much stronger person. I’ve been through a lot, and have seemingly come out victorious, when I was somewhat near death not too long ago. I have the desire to continue healing and to share my story with others, because if I can help just one person out there, that will have made my experiences worth going through.

We all fight different battles, and some are similar, while others are unique. I still have never met another human with Cushing’s Disease, so I tend to think that my situation falls on the unique spectrum. But I haven’t given up hope, or my belief that things happen for a reason. Who knows what I’ll be doing 5 or 10 years from now, but I know that I will never be plagued by having had a mental health issue. 450 million people worldwide have a mental illness diagnosis, while many more go undiagnosed and untreated. It’s OK to reach out for help, as no one should have to go through something of that nature alone. It’s time for the world to be educated about something that is pretty near and dear to my heart.

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