Wow. That last post was seen by quite a lot of people. I don’t know how many because I purposely avoid figures and statistics as I find stuff like that stifles my struggling creativity, but it was enough to crash the servers of my blog providers.
(If you haven’t read my last post you can see it here, because this one won’t make much sense without it).
Of course, I’m glad that so many people read it, as the message of that post was something I wanted as many people as possible to understand. Unfortunately, no doubt due to my ineptitude as a writer, many, many people appeared NOT to understand that message. I received a lot of angry, hate-filled messages arguing other subjects inspired by the text – Is suicide a choice? Can we compare Depression to Cancer? Do I know what the f**k I’m talking about? Etc. And, of all of these angry messages, none of them were discussing what the post was actually about.
In my defence, my blog isn’t usually a hive of activity, and I really only expected a handful of people to read it, so it was really just a quick note that I wrote between my usual daily tasks. Nonetheless, I feel, for once and for all, I really ought to spell out, plainly and clearly, exactly what I was trying to say. So here it is – my opinion:
Depression is a widely misunderstood illness that it is not suffered by choice.
It’s quite simple.
The sheer number of contradictory comments I found on my blog, Facebook and Twitter, from people with conflicting opinions on Depression, stand as proof that the illness is widely misunderstood. Even those who have or do suffer from it can’t seem to agree!
And the idea that people suffer Depression by choice, or as a result of their own refusal to try to cheer up, is surely a no-brainer. It’s an illness – how can you choose an illness? But this is where the real divide seems to lie. This is where opinions really clash. And this is where the real problem in general lack of understanding Depression really arises.
It seems that any of us who have ever suffered Depression, or have ever known anyone with Depression, or known someone who took their own life as a result of depression, automatically become experts on the subject. We are not. I am not. How can one person ever claim to understand what is going on inside the brain of another? I have had a headache once, but that does not qualify me to claim to know what it feels like to die from head trauma. Our minds are all different and unique to us, and since Depression is an illness that affects our minds, we can assume that each and every case of Depression is different and unique too.
Another clashing point seems to be as to whether you can choose to get better from Depression. If this were possible there would be no such thing as Depression. It’s as simple as that. You can choose to fight depression, and I personally cannot imagine a single living human being with Depression that is not fighting it every single day of their lives. But, as I mentioned in my previous post, so few people seem to understand that just because Depression affects the mind, that doesn’t mean the sufferer is able to change their mind about whether to have depression or not. Some therapies can help train the mind into ignoring some of the effects of Depression, but that is a million miles away from someone having the ability to wake up one morning and say “Ah, screw it, I can’t be bothered having Depression any more,” and being miraculously cured (though I’m sure I’ll get some messages about cases where this exact thing happened!)
Depression is an illness that effects the mind, just as heart disease is an illness that effects the heart, but you don’t expect a mere “change of heart” to cure that disease do you?
I know people who quite clearly have Depression but refuse to seek help because they are emb arrassed or ashamed or simply don’t want to accept that something might be “wrong” with them. I know people who have been diagnosed with Depression, yet still believe that it is their fault that they feel this way. And I have witnessed a young lady, who believed she was suffering from Depression, approach her own mum for advice, who, at the time, also suffered Depression, only to be told “Don’t be so stupid! What have you got to be depressed about?” This, to me, is so wrong, and is proof that we, the general public, need a far better understanding of what Depression is.
We need to understand that it is not someone’s fault if they suffer Depression. We need to understand that suffering Depression is not the same as feeling depressed. We need to understand that you don’t necessarily have to have something to be depressed about to suffer Depression. And we need to understand that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about in suffering Depression. And this last point is where I will unapologetically compare Depression to Cancer, Heart Disease, Appendicitis or any other illness under the sun that isn’t a result of having sex with animals – there is nothing, NOTHING to be ashamed about. And it is this shame, which is a result of our lack of understanding, which is stopping people from speaking out about their Depression, which only leaves more room for people to fill that void with comments fuelled by ignorance and short-sightedness.
So, to all of you who don’t only have negative, hurtful aspersions to share – Start talking about Depression. End the stigma. Start educating the ignorant. And, in the words of Johnny Mercer, “Accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative.”