I have depression. You get over it.

This time of year is always difficult for me. The monotony of winter takes its toll and I become a hermit, not leaving the house. I don’t see the point. I write funny essays and drop quips on Twitter, while pretending that everything is okay. The internet is a great cover. No one knows that I’ve been wearing the same sweats for a week while eating a diet comprised solely of baked goods and cappuccino.

I’ve been through this cycle for many years now. Eventually I remember that to be a badass I have to engage with the universe, get dressed in clothing with zippers and buttons and move forward.

Andrew Solomon’s TED talk spurred a much needed discussion about how to talk about mental illness, but even more importantly, emphasized the importance of talking about it, period.

Every time there’s a shooting, or a suicide, or some other tragedy, we talk about “what has to be done.” How do we get people the help they need? Why didn’t they tell someone? What did we miss? At the same time, we start labeling people. She must be bipolar. He’s schizophrenic, right? They were on meds. They weren’t on meds.

I had a disagreement with an acquaintance who implied that the medications used to treat psychiatric disorders were the root cause of mass shootings. That’s just what struggling people need. More shame and judgement piled on top of the mountain of crap they’re smothering under. Better not get help, because someone might find out. It’s much better to slog your way through, year after year, making yourself and everyone else around you miserable until it gets better. Unless it doesn’t.

This acquaintance didn’t know that I have dysthymia. I don’t hide it, but I don’t announce it either. So when I heard the TED talk and read the subsequent articles and discussions it occurred to me that those making generalizations are working from a faulty sample. It’s time for people living with mental illness and those who love and support us to step up and tell the rest of world to get over it. We are everywhere. You just didn’t know it.

Hopefully my friends and family will attest that I’m not the least bit scary, unless I haven’t been adequately fed. I’ve even been known to be intelligent, competent and somewhat funny on occasion. This is not because my depression is not a problem. This is because my depression is a problem that I deal with every single day. I actively manage it, so that it can’t control me.

I know I am not alone. When I talk about my experience with depression, invariably someone tells me that they’ve sought treatment at some point or another.Β  At the same time, someone else will say “But your life is so great.”Β  IΒ  merely respond, “It is, but I still feel like shit. That’s how I know it’s depression and not just that my life sucks.” “Just focus on your blessings,” they say. Really? I wouldn’t tell a diabetic, “If you put your mind to it, in no time you won’t need that insulin at all.”

So I’m publicly owning my depression. Honestly, with as effed up as our world is these days, I’m more suspicious of people who can’t acknowledge they’ve lost their shit once or twice. If society can make a sex-symbol out of high-functioning sociopathic Sherlock Holmes, surely it can see the rest of us with mental illness a little more objectively.

And perhaps someday we’ll look back and see that stigmatizing people because of mental illness was just plain crazy. Until then, speak up. I’ve got your back.

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33 comments on “I have depression. You get over it.

  1. aviets says:

    Well said. I’m, having a rough time with SAD this year – had it pretty well under control, but crappy events are taking a toll. Thank you for speaking out.

    May I re-post this on my depression blog, http://www.depressionscollateraldamage.wordpress.com?

    -Amy at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com

  2. aviets says:

    Reblogged this on Depression's Collateral Damage and commented:
    I always enjoy Jeannine’s posts on Mobyjoe Cafe, but today’s really hit home for me, as I struggle with depression in both my husband and myself . Please read! -Amy

  3. Anne Wotring says:

    Thanks for this, Jeannine. I feel ya. I have a dear family member with bipolar and substance abuse; very tough. Thanks for being public about it. Courageous. fyi the TED Talk link didn’t work for me. I looked it up tho. Peace, Anne

    ··································· Anne Wotring, Ph.D. Individual and Group Coaching and Facilitation Wotring Associates, LLC P: 301.814.0557 | F: 301.320.9455 anne@annewotring.com | http://www.annewotring.com

    > The information contained in this message is intended solely for the individual to whom it is specifically and originally addressed. This message and its contents may contain confidential or privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, any disclosure or distribution, or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information, is strictly prohibited >

  4. Julie Leinberger says:

    Oh yea, well said-thx Jeannine

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. janeherndon says:

    JB, I love you dearly, always have, always will. You are awesome!! I have a son who has struggled with ADD and depression all his live and the other son probably also suffers with depression. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Zan Marie says:

    Amen, Jeannine! I’ve battled depression, too. {{{hugs}}}}

  7. edwinkimmd says:

    Reblogged this on Are You Mental? and commented:
    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Heather says:

    *applauds*

    I think there’s a huge lack of communication and choice in the way we label ourselves. We say “I’m depressed” when we’re sad for a few days, maybe because we’re grieving a loss. But when it’s the end of the world for people, we’re so afraid of the actual label “depression”. The language has been adopted by the main stream for people with a sad feelings. But the attitudes have not changed because the stigma remains.

    And it’s also very difficult because there are people who have recovered from a legitimate mental illness, compared to some who struggle their entire lives. Like women who have gestational diabetes, the illness is similar, but the length much shorter than someone with Type 2 diabetes. Yet we put them into boxes. Either, “you’ll get over it,” or when there’s a crime involved “that person will never recover.”

    I’ve seen both in people, who have the lifelong battle and who have the 2 year spiral. We need to talk. So thank you for sharing your story. It isn’t simple, and we without shouldn’t just assume anything. (And I’m sorry if I did above. I’m passionate about this topic.)

    • Heather, no apology necessary. πŸ™‚ It’s a topic I’m passionate about too! Depression as a disease does run the gamut, and response to treatment can vary greatly by individual. The more we talk, the more we learn. I’m all ears.

  9. Hi Friend. I want to start by wrapping you in a warm hug and saying “bravo”. I am having a slight Bette Midler moment (sing it!)… Thank you for speaking out. We are truly all in this together; lumps, bumps, and dark days.

  10. Bomb Article. Your bit on being told to “focus on your blessings” reminded me of an article i wrote last year….I’ll just leave this here…

    http://thepreppypanda.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/seven-things-you-shouldnt-say-to-the-depressed-person-you-love-and-what-to-say-instead/

  11. Nina says:

    Beautifully and bravely said, Jeannine! Thank you and I’m in your corner and couldn’t be happier to have you in mine. Lots of love.

  12. I have so much respect for you for this post. I have family members who suffer and I have seen so much suffering for lack of services and lack of understanding. Some people have no idea what mental illnesses are. For example, I mentioned to someone that a family member of mine had mental illnesses. She said….”well doesn’t she live in a supervised home? ”
    It is so ridiculous how misinformed and uneducated this society is about illnesses that could very well creep up on them some day just like diabetes, cancer, etc. Thanks for sharing this. πŸ™‚

  13. boltoncarley says:

    You are a rockstar, I’ve thought that since i “met” you. This changes nothing. I have a sister who is bipolar and SAD kicks every midwesterners ass every year if you ask me. some are just more willing to admit it than others. I would love for our country to start dealing with mental illness when we recognize them – in elementary school for some. As a teacher, we see them, but we have no outlet to get them help. I have been asking for counselors, camps, etc that would help our elem. kids. That’s how you avoid shootings and suicides later in life. Enough of my ranting. Props to you for saying what you have to say.

  14. Did you know that in additions to charging exorbitant rates and providing poor customer service, our long-time main phone provider in Canada carries out this annual campaign:

    http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

    Good on them, despite everything else.

  15. Another powerhouse post, Jeannine. So much more could be said, but really, you said all that is needed. We’d be so much healthier on all levels of body and society if we could just acknowledge and accept and move on . . . rather than getting stuck at throwing prescriptions and injunctions and platitudes at those of us just trying to get through the day. Kudos and blessing abundant upon your head.

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