Disclaimer: I apologize if I’ve made any incorrect generalizations or statements in this post on depression. I’m no expert on this topic, and just intend to share my thoughts. Feel free to correct me or contribute to this post.
Title inspired by a quote by writer Samantha Gilbert.
From what I’ve read, in America: 1 in 5 suffer from depression, in UK: 1 in 4, and in 2011 India was said to be the most depressed country in the world (as found by a faulty WHO-funded study). That’s a lot of people. That means everyday it’s probable that you’re coming in contact with someone silently suffering from depression.
I wish depression was not categorized as a ‘mental illness’. I do want that it receives all the attention it deserves, but I wonder if calling it a ‘mental illness’ is necessary. I say this because no one wants to be considered ‘mentally ill’, and so when faced with the problem of depression there’s a hesitancy to open up to someone about it; there’s a chance they might want the problem to be just their inability to cope and not a mental illness – and that just makes them beat themselves up about it instead of giving themselves a break and reaching for the help they need.
I once had a really bad phase. I did wonder if it was the depression people battle for years, but I decided against it because it scared me. Maybe mine was some strain of depression, maybe it wasn’t, but what I do know is that mine was a dark phase of introspection, a test of my faith in God, and ultimately a period of growth that I now appreciate. I also appreciate that it’s made me more understanding of people who feel depressed- the people who tell me about the occasional ‘bleh’ day to those who say nothing but have an obvious cloud hanging over them.
While I think it’s best for one who has suffered from ‘ the real (crappy) deal’ depression to be writing about it, I’m still writing because maybe my voice will count for something. I’m writing because I’ve learnt that people don’t understand depression; people will point at your suffering and say you’ve brought it on yourself; say that it’s because you’re weak and can’t deal with life. They are wrong. If anything, depression requires one to be stronger than a depression-free person. While I had no problem with my situation in life, I nevertheless had a problem. And I didn’t want to open up to anyone because it felt like having to explain how my imaginary friend was troubling me. (Harry Potter reference coming up!) It’s like sitting in blissful meadow with a dementor* for company. Unless an outsider can understand what a dementor’s presence feels like, he’ll think it’s your fault you can’t appreciate the meadow.
* “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.“—Remus Lupin to Harry Potter
I can understand how people could fail to understand that depressed people are not weak. Years ago, I believed people who attempt/commit suicide are cowardly and weak. Today, I know better.
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” – David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)
What we need is more understanding, more empathy, more voices speaking out, more information about depression, and every effort to root out the social stigma that exists.
What inspired this post: A fellow blogger nominated me for the Dragon Loyalty Award. Don’t ask. I have no idea what that award means, but I know it was nice of him as the only point I think there is to these awards is that it directs traffic to the nominator’s and nominees’ blogs. His blog is his antidote to depression, so I thought writing on a topic that matters to him would be the best way to acknowledge his niceness.
In the hope that this might aid you or someone you know in their battle with depression, I’m sharing the links to a few blogs.
Time to change – Let’s end mental health discrimination – a collection of blogged experiences of many suffering from depression.
Douglas Cootey – Overcoming AD/HD & Depression With Lots Of Humor And Attitude
Etta – Female runner and health professional reveals her battle with severe and persistent depression including how it changed her identity, personality and life.
Marie – Recovering memories of sexual abuse, releasing shame, healing addictions, learning to trust
Marie has a list of helpful blog links on her sidebar, just fyi.
Wishing you the best mental health and the grace to be a friend to anyone who’s battling depression!