A few months ago I participated in a group activity in which we were all asked to step into a circle if the statement posed applied to our lives in some way. For example, one statement was “I felt rejection because of my sexual orientation.” And for the most part, I felt that people had legitimate reasons to step into the circle and take ownership of whatever experience was being mentioned. But there was moment that elicited an eye roll from me-the moment a majority of the participants stepped into the circle when the statement, “I suffer from depression” was presented.
I try my best to accept the things people say at face value and not belittle their experiences. But for some reason, it’s so difficult for me to do when the issue involved is depression. To put it simply, I think a lot of people are fucking clueless as to what depression is. They think depression and sadness are one in the same. It’s just like when some asshat says they suffer from OCD because they just can’t live without having all of their pencils sharpened. Apparently it’s trendy to have a mental health issue, so much so that everyone is claiming to have one.
Now it is important for me to clarify that I know a lot of people suffer from depression. And I know there are people who have yet to be diagnosed or fearful of seeking treatment because of stigma. I get that. But when everyone claims to have something, it negates the experience of people who actually deal with the issue. To an extent, it’s as if people are appropriating mental illnesses when convenient.
When we appropriate mental illness, we confuse the people who may truly be suffering from it. If something is seen as commonplace, we don’t consider its severity as seriously. A girl struggling with depression won’t speak up because she’ll think that what she is experiencing isn’t legitimate. And when we appropriate something, whether we mean to or not, we’re trivializing and mocking it. By making some exaggerated statement about being “OCD”, we make the person who actually suffers from it uncomfortable. Saying you like having a clean closet is not the same as not being able to function without repeating certain acts. If anything it just highlights how little you actually know about the disorder.
I have several family members who suffer from depression, enough to know that it is something entirely different from sadness. You see, sadness is often an emotional response to something upsetting. It’s a normal human emotion- something that comes and then goes with time. Depression is what occurs when you’re sad for extended periods of time without any emotional trigger. Depression is lying in bed for days without eating and wishing you were dead just so you could finally have some peace. It’s a terrifying notion- that you can be so consumed that you can’t even function anymore. You can’t eat, sleep, bathe- and the worst part is that often times without medication, you can’t do anything.
Depression runs in my family. In fact, we could probably run a pharmacy out of my house with the amount of pills we have in the medicine cabinet. And it terrifies me to think that I suffer from it too. I do my best to appear cheery and I truly do enjoy myself when I am with friends, but there are times when I feel myself sinking into it. Sometimes I just feel so empty and useless that I wish I was gone. I even occasionally find myself holed up in my room crying for absolutely no reason. And I do my best to fight it, perhaps too much so. I’m so determined to be different from my family, to make a future for myself that is better than my past, that I often find myself suppressing my issues-which usually only makes them worse. Thankfully I do feel that I am handling myself well enough at the moment that I don’t need to see someone or be prescribed any medication. But I’m worried that the time will come when I do and that I’ll be too stubborn or ashamed to truly acknowledge it.
Like most of my posts, this was really nothing other than a long-winded rant about my life. I have this uncanny ability to talk about myself nonstop. But there was a point to it all, it being- respect the experiences of others. Suffering from a mental health issue doesn’t make you trendy nor does it make you a broken person. You should treat someone taking antidepressants the same way as someone who is taking medicine for any health condition. We’ll never be able to deal with mental health issues effectively if we only look at them in the context of the “mental” part nor will we get anywhere if we label people “crazy.” We need to be compassionate and respectful of the diversity of life experiences and as a self-proclaimed fucker I can say we need to think about how we speak. So don’t say you suffer from Depression if you don’t, don’t say “OMG I’M SO OCD” if you’re just overly into organization, and don’t write someone off just because they take a pill with their breakfast.