“God did not lead me through the valley of the shadow of death for nothing,” said Lisa Houk, sophomore social work major and psychology minor. For many years Houk has suffered from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and was officially diagnosed at the age of 31.
MDD is different from depression because it’s a chronic long-term struggle throughout a person’s life that causes them to become extremely downcast. It’s believed to be a chemical imbalance in the brain and it’s usually treated with medication.
“It felt like I lived in a well with no light at the top,” said Houk.
Houk grew up with suicidal thoughts and extreme emotional lows. She even got to the point where she planned out an attempt to commit suicide. However, one of her friends—who never drove at night or in the city—insisted on coming to see Houk that night to make dinner.
“God was there the whole way, the entire way,” said Houk.
Houk never thought that life had meaning. Throughout her struggle it was very difficult to live day by day.
Houk said that God is a large reason why she is alive, “God did not put me here to take me away.”
Houk remembered the feeling of finally being able to get her illness under control, “It was like I had lived in Kansas and woke up in beauty and color of Oz.”
Now that she has been able to overcome her MDD Houk said, “I realized I needed to be more educated about on my illness so I could be an advocate for myself and others.”
“I have been able to have the gift of compassion and help others [because of experiencing MDD],”said Houk.
Houk has become involved in many organizations to make awareness for mental illnesses.
“[Awareness] is trying to defy what the media has portrayed and made us become,” said Houk. “It is exactly like diabetes [something that a person cannot cure] and effects your life on a grand scale.”
Houk is partnering with Dr. Morber of the Malone Counseling Center to start a NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) chapter at Malone to help students, faculty and people who may have loved ones who can are struggling or may know someone who they think could be struggling with an illness.
“It will be open to anyone on campus,” said Houk
The first meeting will be April 21 where people will be able to come for information and support.
Houk said that It will be completely ran and led by students. The meeting will seek to find students interested in leading, who will be trained this summer so the group can “take ground for the fall,” said Houk
“There are cycles; it is a constant struggle,” said Houk. “You need to recognize the signs so you do not relapse back into it.”
Houk said that her main mission is to let people know there is treatment and recovery is possible. She wants to let people know there is hope to overcome their struggle and know how to stop it from becoming a hindrance to their lives.
“If I had something to turn to, I may be able save years of depression and sadness,” said Houk. This new affiliation of NAMI will be a way to help people become aware of mental illnesses and educate people about them.
“It will be very exciting to implement how my faith has impacted me and my experience,” said Houk.
Lisa Heath is a contributing writer and web editor for The Aviso.