The stigma of Depression…
“Think positively…stop being so negative…you can try harder…don’t be lazy…if you really wanted to, you would…”
Where does that leave the one suffering with Depression? Feeling guilty, overcome, a bother. You feel like something’s wrong with you and you need to get your stuff together or “figure it out” or “fix it”, only, well, easier said than done.
The interwebs have gone off at the sudden and sad news about Robin Williams’ death which is presumed to be due to Suicide. Between Twitter and Facebook, I’ve seen many shocked and tender hearts sharing their love of this talented man’s work that bestowed us with years and years of joy, laughter, and perspective through powerful dramatic roles. I mean, this man excelled in his craft, for sure. There have been a few filtered through, ignorant and just sad (sadness in humanity, sad) comments out there too.
Some have gone as far to say that it was “selfish” of Robin Williams to have committed suicide. Others think Depression is a “stupid” reason or condition for someone “like him” to have had. I’m not going to condemn people for having their opinions. The point I do want to make in this post is about the medical condition that is Depression.
The web is sounding off on the issue of Depression tonight. It’s interesting to see when something like this occurs, all those who equally suffer, coming out of the wood works. It’s beautiful actually.
I don’t get offended with those who have never suffered, or known someone to understand this terrible disease. It is an extremely complex sickness that is real. It’s a chemical/hormonal imbalance in the body that looks different for everyone. For some, if can seem very apparent but guess what? For most, it’s visually discrete and is more of a deep parasite eating away at the person inside, while they fight to please or fake it for everyone on the outside because they feel a weight from other people’s expectations–falsely placed or not.
The sad part is, what is available out in the market to “help” depression (because it doesn’t seem to be something you can infinitely cure, yet) only works for a very small percentage. So once again, shame takes over and those around you never understand how you can be “normal” one minute, and suddenly fall so deep and so far down emotionally for a season at the drop of a hat.
Here’s the thing. Those this happens to can’t explain it to you either. It sneaks up on them. They usually can’t pinpoint the trigger. They don’t even acknowledge it as a Depression episode until MAYBE after, if they sit back and contemplate about it. You just think you’re having a “normal” bad day, or bad week. As a girl, you blame that time of the month as a possible culprit. (Which ladies, yes, that’s possibly one trigger due to the hormones, but not the root of it)
If you haven’t guessed by now, the reason I’m expressing all of this is because…I suffer from Depression.
It took until my twenties to even get diagnosed with it. I have suffered from many health issues since I was a preteen. All those years, I had no answers, understanding, idea of why I suffered the way I did. I was twelve and writing morbidly in journals about giving up on life. Twelve! Why the hell would a twelve year old want to end their life already? I didn’t have a traumatic, or horrible upbringing. It wasn’t perfect but by no means to the extent that would “justify” someone so young wanting to give up before they’ve even begun.
I always got the,
“Stop being negative. You need to learn to think more positively. Stop being lazy. Be more social…”
And so on and so forth. These statements (and then some) only increased my negative view of myself. Depression also hurts physically. Your body, your bones, your muscles, ache. You don’t sleep well but can sleep all day, every day. For each person, of course, it’s different. For me, in addition to all my other health issues piled on top of the chemical imbalance provoking my Depression, I would go through seasons struggling to get up for weeks at a time. I never spoke about it because any past attempts resulted in misunderstandings or just plain clueless-ness to what I’d express, or try to. You convince yourself it’s in your head. You convince yourself you just need to learn to crawl out of your shell and look like everyone else, talk like everyone else, try at life like everyone else.
You try and try and feel like a failure every time a new episode would crash into you unexpectedly like a wave. Next thing you know, any effort and progress you feel you made gets obliterated and you’re back at square one. The thought of “trying” all over again is so heavy and discouraging, you crawl in your comfy hole for as long as life will let you, until it forces you back out because, well, life isn’t made for those who suffer Depression. It’s like an Introvert living in an Extrovert world. As an Introvert, you have to learn to be more like the Extrovert to “succeed”. It’s like a Lefty (left-handed person) living in a Right-handed world. You grow up being forced to learn how to use right-handed scissors, etc. All these examples, I speak from experience which is a little funny. I’m not bitter about any of it, just trying to paint a picture here.
In the end, there is no answer or glorious epiphany or a blow your mind conclusion here. Just facts. Just feelings. Just truth.
Depression is real.
It is a medical issue, not an emotional issue. Keep your gasps in. Let me explain. The stem of it is not an emotional issue. Hence the stigma says, “Get over it.” Why? Because, we have control of our emotions. We can train ourselves to react and feel certain things in a certain way. Again, why people who do not understand think you can just “snap out of it”.
It is a legitimate, medical issue that is still struggling to find a productively consistent and definite cure. We never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors. It is so easier to put on a mask and play a part in public.
Here’s another stereotypical misunderstanding. Someone suffering can still be kind, friendly, even appear outgoing. These are genuine characteristics someone suffering can possess. It’s the going home at the end of the day, curling up at night with your thoughts, no other voices, where it many times manifests. Where no one could see or witness because it’s all internal. Deep within.
Okay, now I’m just venting and rambling. I never share about this or my personal struggles. Only those extremely close to me know, but I felt it was one; good for me to let it all out and two; someone may benefit from this rant. Who knows?
Compassion. It’s the best thing any of us can do for anyone in this world because again, one never knows what the other suffers behind closed doors. Even if we don’t understand someone’s thoughts, ideals, life decisions, actions…compassion. A little can go a long way.
In regards to getting help…well, that too is easier said than done. I have seen TONS of doctors since my preteen years and though some tried, (some more than others because it seems a doctor’s willingness to care only goes as deep as my pockets which, weren’t deep) none have ever been able to help all of my issues. It becomes discouraging to continue seeking for help where many have failed time and time again for over fifteen years.
Depression is a very complex illness. I’m still fighting it every day. Sometimes, finding the little things that bring you joy are the things you hold on to with dear life. You focus on them, give yourself completely to them, not giving in. For me it’s always been writing.
Writing and Reading–they’re my solace, my lifeline at times. Movie nights with either my closest friend, Vanessa or my best friend/soulmate, Heather. Other times, it can be music or theatre. The arts have always been life giving oxygen that pumps through my veins. Whenever I have access to them, I dive in, soaking them up. As the beautiful and wise beyond her years, Esther Earl said,
“Just be happy, and if you can’t be happy, do things that make you happy. Or do nothing with the people that make you happy.”
It does make me think…wonderful people who could have done so much, contribute so much more in the world than me, got only a certain number of days on this earth…but I’m still here. I, for God knows why, get to stay and live. Then again, life is short and can be shorter than others. Books like ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ made me think about perspective, about little infinities. I get encouraged to push through, fight and make my infinity worth it and memorable for me. Push against the things that scare me. Say, “screw it!” to other people’s expectations and pursue the things that make me happy, at least. That’s where I’m at.
Life is made of choices. Those choices in turn, make up moments. Moments string together like constellations and create a timeline that echoes in the vastness of the universe. It’s all so big and we’re so small. All we can do is choose today. Then, when tomorrow comes, we choose tomorrow. Little efforts, hopefully will lead to great moments. Don’t get overwhelmed with the vastness of it all. Choose today. Be happy today, and if you can’t be happy, as Esther Earl (who died of cancer at 16) said, do things that make you happy. Or do nothing with people who make you happy. It’s how I get through my day to day.
I leave you with this. I’ve been jamming to this song my friend Vanessa showed me. I love the bridge. It’s been my inner voice’s anthem. Enjoy the song below!
“I don’t know where I’m going, but I know where I’ve been.
And it’s never in the knowing, it’s in the not giving in.
And when the earth is slippin’, trippin’, right underneath our feet
Remember we’re not finished, we’re not finished.”
May those who suffer from Depression find hope for another day and may other’s become more aware of this medical condition. May we all find more compassion within us towards others and even towards ourselves.