Happy Wednesday, friends! It’s time again, with this amazing Shattering Stigmas event, to share one more incredible blog post with you! SO excited! In case you missed it, Shattering Stigmas is an event that will take place from October 6th to October 20th here on Drizzle & Hurricane Books.
Three years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.
You can also enter our INTERNATIONAL (Book Depository) giveaway! TWO winners will be able to win the Mental Health book of their choice at the end of this event. Don’t forget to ENTER HERE!
I am thrilled to welcome the amazing Lily today on my blog, writing about depression in a very eloquent, very amazing way, really. I loved this post so, very much and I hope you will feel the same way about it! Feel free to share your thoughts on comments!
Trigger warning: this post talks about depression.
Depression isolates you. Alienates you. Or rather, it makes you alienate yourself. From your passions, your ambitions, your friends, your family—in short; from life, and from living it.
“Being around people was absolutely the most draining thing I could imagine. Just talking to someone. I avoided the world. I mostly stayed lying in bed, and I wanted my shades closed.” (Andrew Solomon)
No one who hasn’t experienced depression themselves will probably ever truly understand what it means to be depressed—and even if they have, no two experiences are ever exactly the same. Nevertheless, it would be wonderful, if everyone was kind, open-minded, and understanding enough to try—and to, at the very least, acknowledge it as a real illness.
Because it is.
“I’m so depressed.”
How often have you heard someone say this? Or said it yourself? How often do you think the person saying it actually meant that they were suffering from depression? Were you? And did you take them seriously?
How often do you think the person sitting right in front of you on the bus on your way home happened to be in a mental state closely resembling a deep, dark pit, trying to claw their way out of it with the last bit of their strength, all the while feeling like they’re drowning, while being surrounded by air?
Being depressed has, for some curious reason, become a word that’s used very liberally, and without much second thought—people are “depressed“, because their favorite restaurant closed down, or because their haircut turned out differently from what they had expected—the word “depressed“ is used so often in day to day life. And yet, depression itself is still stigmatized. And I believe that part of the reason why it still hasn’t been accepted as a real illness in society—at least not universally—is because of the very fact that it’s being used so liberally.
I consider myself to be immensely lucky to be surrounded by intelligent, understanding, and open-minded friends, many of them online, who get it, but sadly, that’s not the case, when I step out of that safe circle; both on the internet, and in real life. I still witness university students talk behind a fellow student’s back, when they confesses to needing a break from studying, exams, and university life, because they’re mentally exhausted. And I can almost hear what they’re thinking, as their faces slip into perfect reflections of skepticism at best, and derision at worst. Meanwhile, the word depression hasn’t even been uttered.
The fact is, that mental health, and depression, still aren’t being taken seriously enough.
Because if they were, depression would be an acceptable reason to miss work, or school, just like having the flu is, and people wouldn’t feel entitled to giving unsolicited advice such as “think positive!”, “I’ve been feeling down lately as well, it’s probably the weather … you should go out, and soak up some sunshine! Get your Vitamin D!”, or “try smiling, because it automatically tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy”, and feel perfectly comfortable, or even helpful, while doing so.
I’ve thought about how to write about this topic, where to begin, how to begin, and all I want to address pertaining to it, for a really long time, because I want this post to be helpful, but also hopeful—but most of all, I want everyone to know that no one chooses to be depressed. Especially with clinical depression, depressed people themselves are often ashamed of admitting that they’re suffering, because they don’t feel like they deserve to be. Because so many people have it worse, and, objectively, they should be happy, appreciative, and grateful for everything they have (that others, who aren’t depressed, don’t).
“From time to time, the panic would lift for a little while. Then came the calm despair. The inexplicability of it all defied logic. It was hellishly embarrassing to tell people I was depressed, when my life seemed to have so much good and love and material comfort in it;“ (Andrew Solomon)
So many people suffer in silence, afraid of seeming dramatic, afraid of being a burden, and afraid of turning away the people they love, by being sad all the time, “because no one likes a downer”.
There are so many things I want to say about depression—I want mental health, and mental illnesses in general to be a topic that is discussed and taught in schools, I want to write posts after posts after posts about all the things that I find so hard to put into words. But for now, here are a few things that I do everyday, in the hopes of helping others who may need it a great deal—things that always help me.
- smile at someone [I don’t know]
- genuinely take an interest in, and ask someone how they’re doing
- listen—really listen
- be kind, and understanding [especially when someone acts unkindly]
- educate myself—no one is born perfectly “unproblematic”, and filled with knowledge about how to talk about mental illness (I still struggle with it myself), and how to help, and be supportive of people who have a mental illness.
Also, I want to say the following: there are many reasons why people can be, or are, depressed. Sometimes, there is a reason in form of an event, something tragic that happened, that triggers depression, or a depressive episode—but many, many times, there isn’t a definitive answer to why someone has depression. They just do.
All of us human beings are constantly trying to make sense of things, trying to fix problems, trying to help. We want to help. It’s why we ask things like “Why?”. Because we care. But when it comes to depression, and mental illnesses, a lot of times, it does the exact opposite.
So if someone puts their trust in you, and tells you about their mental illness, and their struggles, be kind. Be thoughtful. Don’t presume. And don’t (immediately) ask “but why”? Because sometimes there is no why, and asking that question can be crushing, exactly because of that. Someone’s life could look perfect, yet there they are, depressed “for no reason”.
What you can say instead, is “I’m here for you”. Sometimes that’s all you can do, and it will make the biggest difference.
Here are a few books that you won’t want to miss out on, that carefully weave in the effects and the huge impact depression has on all of our lives.
The depression belongs to all of us. I think of the family down the road whose mother was having a baby and they went around the neighborhood saying, “We’re pregnant.” I want to go around the neighborhood saying, “We’re depressed.” (Saving Francesca)
I whole-heartedly urge you to read these, and maybe the next time someone is quiet, or rude, or impolite—maybe instead of thinking of them as quiet, rude, or impolite—maybe consider that they’re none of these things, that those are mere symptoms of something larger going on in their lives, something they have no control over.
A smile could be all that helps to alleviate their pain.