[TW: Depression, self-harm, suicide]
Sometimes I join in on Twitter conversations/debates. There was one recently one depression and whether Prozac and other antidepressants are the answer or if CBT is the best option. I personally believe it’s down to the individual and there’s no cure-all for depression but one of the responses was ‘depression doesn’t exist; it’s something American pharmaceutical companies made up that people now think exists’.
Practicalities and logic aside, that hit me hard. Depression lead someone I love with all my heart to attempt suicide, it made me cut myself throughout my whole teens, it has made people I love lose everything including any kind of sense of self. For somebody to say it doesn’t exist is just so painful and erases everything I and the people I love have been through not to mention the millions of sufferers. When I was 21, my depression came back and I was in a terrible way. I spent most of my days crying or just staring into space. Time flew by. I begged my boyfriend to leave me because I didn’t think I was worth loving and felt like any time somebody got close to me, I ruined their life. It was a long time before I reached out for help and I really didn’t think I had depression, I was convinced that I was just a generally unhappy, poisonous person and depression, if anything, would be a relief from the desperate misery that was my life. If I’d read someone saying that depression wasn’t a real thing, I would have agreed. I can’t even imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t had the help I needed and I wouldn’t have reached out if I’d seen that, I’m very easily persuaded that I’m overreacting when I’m in that kind of place mentally.
There is still very much a stigma attached to depression and this kind of attitude only makes it far, far worse. Depression comes with guilt, you feel guilty for being depressed, you feel guilty for not appreciating your good, privileged life, you feel guilty for worrying your friends and family. If depressed people are being told it doesn’t exist, imagine how that feels. Even if they know deep down it definitely does, there’ll still be the doubt, the guilt. In her Ted Talk ‘What’s So Funny About Mental Illness?‘ Ruby Wax said:
How come when people have mental damage, it’s always an act of imagination? How come when every other organ in your body, can get sick, you can get sympathy, except the brain?
When I had surgery and spoke on here about Endometriosis, I was inundated with messages of support. It was lovely, going through everything that I did (and am) was a struggle and knowing that people loved and supported me made the journey a lot easier. Knowing that I could speak to people about how troubled I was made all the difference to my life. It was wonderful and it really made me realise how fortunate I was to have so many people who loved me. People’s kindness at that time will never be forgotten and my boyfriend’s/family’s/friend’s patience with me was incredible. And is incredible.
When I was in the pits of depression, I was too ashamed to speak about it with anyone really. There were a select few who I explained it to but for the most part, I couldn’t bring myself to speak about it. I was ashamed. I’d seen what people said about depressed people and, even more, about depressed people who are unemployed; general consensus being that they were lying. There were even people who said that they managed to get by when they were depressed so why couldn’t these workshy bastards? Here’s the answer: it affects everyone differently and there is no ‘right’ way to deal with depression that fits everyone.
Apparently 1 in 4 people have a mental illness of some kind. Think of the people you love, imagine how many that equates to. Even if it’s different for you, say it’s 1 in 6. That’s still 2 people suffering. 2 people out of 12 that you love. Think of the people who have enriched your life simply by being part of it. Imagine how many of them are affected by mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are not something that happen to ‘other people’, they’re not something you can brush under the rug and pretend don’t exist in your life. They affect most people in one form or another, even if it’s just being the loved one of a sufferer. So why is this a stigma? Why are we still pretending it doesn’t exist? Why are we not educating people on what depression actually is and how to help a sufferer?
If you are suffering, or you think you might be, please get help. Speak to a doctor, speak to somebody on an anonymous helpline. Seek help. Know that I, and millions of other sufferers are behind you. You are not alone in this, you never will be. Depression never truly goes away but it does fade, it becomes manageable, it becomes something you live in spite of. Remember things will not always be this bad and you are stronger than you think. Watch the video I’ve spoken about, it helps. It helped me. It helped those who didn’t understand to come to terms with it. Be kind to yourself. You’re ill, be as kind to yourself as you are when you have a physical illness. Try to talk about it whenever you feel ready.
If you know a sufferer, be patient. Be as patient as you can be. Be loving, give them space. If you’re struggling, educate yourself. Read up on it. Those who are supporting sufferers can find themselves suffering too. Talk about it whenever you need to. As Ruby Wax said at the end of her talk:
If we don’t talk about this stuff, we don’t learn how to deal with our lives, it’s not going to be 1 in 4, it’s going to be 4 in 4 who are really ill in the upstairs department. And while we’re at it, can we please stop the stigma?
The song this post was named after is called Loose Lips and it’s by Kimya Dawson:
pssst… in her talk, Ruby Wax demonstrates just how physical mental illness is and explains how the brain works. SO worth a watch!