D is for Depression

Those of you who read my blog regularly would not be surprised by today’s topic however if you are new here, then it might take you a little by surprise.
Not many people will openly talk about depression, however I am not many people. I am of the belief that the more depression is openly discussed the easier it will be for sufferers to heal and seek the assistance they need in overcoming this.

Yesterday I was at a  meeting (I’m the minute taker) where service providers and carers meet each month to discuss issues etc. One of the carers commented that there is a lack of support for teens considering suicide and those coping with the loss of a teen through suicide. Discussion took place around this and many wonderful points were made. One of the parents suggested that there should be more open discussion and media coverage so that those who are depressed and suicidal would feel better about approaching someone or seeking help. She said that there are many problems with help lines (long waiting times) and others not manned regularly because there are not enough volunteers. (This is a whole other blog post that is best left for another time however). Another at the meeting spoke about media guidelines in regard to reporting suicides, adding that sometimes the media reporting these things allows teens to feel that it’s something that is okay to do. He used word that I can’t quite recall but he basically advocated less discussion/media coverage in order to discourage teens from considering suicide as an option to feelings of sadness and loneliness.
The discussion then turned to depression. As I listened to this conversation I felt tears welling up. I understood what it is to have the feeling of giving up and ending it all. However with the benefit of many extra years on that of a teenager, I can reason things out.
I had to say something – and I did.
In front of a room full of strangers (and some people that I knew) I told them that I suffer from depression and that most people who suffer from depression (regardless of age) consider suicide at some point and that this discussion is not age specific. It stopped the main speaker in his tracks (although he quickly recovered).
This made me think. Why should telling someone you suffer depression be a conversation killer?
Is it because of people’s perceptions of what they believe depression is?
Is it because some of the people in the room looked at me and thought “Wow. I wouldn’t have guessed it”.
I really have no idea.
However, depression is something that comes in many forms and it hits without warning at times.
I am not of the belief that depression is about not being able to let go of the past.
I don’t believe that depression is something that should be used as an excuse for bad behaviour or the committing of crimes.
I do believe that depression is an illness.
It can sometimes shake us to our core and then shake us a little more before wringing us out for good measure.

Those who suffer depression, learn coping mechanisms so that they can continue living their life. They learn what things may trigger a depressive bout and take steps to counter them.
They learn who their true friends are.
They need to learn to trust those in their families with what they are feeling.
The First Born rang me the other night and she said “I feel as if I don’t know my own mother”. I asked her what prompted this and she replied that she had read my blog on the death of Charlotte Dawson (When it all gets too much). She doesn’t normally read my blog but decided on this occasion to do so and was stunned that her own mother felt this way.
You see, those with depression want to shield those they love so they don’t burden them with what they are feeling. I should know this. It took many, many years before the GG would talk to me about his struggles. I could see them but there was nothing I could do because he kept shutting me out.
I apologised to the First Born and told her that yes, I do suffer depression however she has enough of her own difficulties in life without having to cope with dealing with my own issues. But I should have been honest with her.
I am lucky that I can talk with the GG and with my mother (who herself struggles on and off with depression). They both understand and will listen. Of course the GG (being a male) wants to fix things for me but he’s getting better at understanding when I say “I just want to vent/talk”.

Depression is a mental illness.
Depression is no respecter of persons and will strike anyone in any walk of life.
Depression is a conversation killer.
Depression comes with a stigma attached.

My dream is that one day enough people are brave enough to say “Yes, I suffer depression” and open the channels of conversation enough to reduce the stigma.
I can dream right?

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76 thoughts on “D is for Depression

  1. Damn stigma. Damn it damn it damn it.
    Loved the post, too.
    But the stigma is a right pain in the butt.

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      1. Thanks! 🙂 Koalas are certainly seen as cute, but they’re still wild animals. Depression is often seen as relatively benign, but it can be a killer. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that. I know you’re aware!

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  2. I do also hope, that we will see this one day Sue. Depression can hit all of us and it is not easy to get rid of again. The stigma is very bad.
    We need to remember, it is not weak people, who suffer most with depression. It is strong people, who have been much too strong through too long time.
    There are many theories about, why we get the depression at all and it is not so very important to find that answer. It is more important to take away the stigma and open up and listen to, what is going on, since so many get the depression.
    Thanks for sharing Sue.

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      1. Yes, that was why I used the term Clinical Depression. It helped me to avoid those bad frases.
        Sue – about your book; I’m in the middle of a movement, and I would really like to join you, but I need you to be a little patient right now, because I live in boxes right now. We are moving out from here in next weekend and in to a new and very nice house.
        Best Wishes Irene

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  3. You are one brave lady. THANK YOU! Thank you for bringing awareness to this illness with such openness and heart. All of us who suffer from this appreciate you so much! HUGS

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  4. Thank you for sharing, Sue. You are right, there is a stigma attached to depression and that needs to be addressed. One in three people suffer from depression at some point in their life. One in three. And I agree with Irene. Depression is not a sign of weakness and I dream with you that one day the stigma will be no more.

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  5. You are doing such a wonderful service with your honesty. One thing I think people fail to understand is that depression is also a physical illness with it’s body aches and tensions — well, at least for some people.

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  6. I cannot even imagine standing up in a room full of strangers and peers, and telling them that I have depression. My heart rate speeds up just thinking about it. You are much braver than I! But I hope that in doing so today, maybe you gave hope to someone in that room struggling with depression, or maybe you gave insight to someone who has a loved one who is depressed. And maybe somewhere down the line, as a result of your bravery today, someone was saved from suicide. One can only hope.

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  7. People (forgive the generalization) are quite open to discussing depression and all its little demons (suicide, isolation, anger, blah, blah, blah) and what needs to be done to alleviate the growing trend in our youth; in the most general and detached way, but not in a real and personal way. Everyone knows it ‘catchy’. I had, in my early 30’s, survived a suicide attempt, in my home town, and was promptly escorted to a local hospital. After weeks of therapy and proper medication I was allowed a day away. My mother picked me up and took me to lunch. We discussed family and friends and the conversation came to an old friend of the family and my mother said, “It was so sad, she committed…she…they found her in her house.”
    “Mom, did she kill herself? You cn use the word ‘suicide’, its not going to drive me screaming into the streets. Not before dessert, anyway.” “Mike, I just don’t know how to talk to you about it.” She never did. If we had talked about it, years before…before I tried to kill myself, when I wasn’t so lost in the quagmire of depression, would have known that I had a place to go.
    People that have depression, and it is a battle on the good days, need to do as you did and stand up and turn the conversation away from the abstract ‘planning’ that deals with the aftermath and not the problem.shows
    The most frustrating thing in the world to me is a stupid commercial for an antidepressant that shows a little cartoon woman walking around with a little black cloud over her head.
    Sorry for the rant, very, very personal subject.
    peace

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    1. Mike, I am at a loss after reading your story. I wish I could take you back in time and heal it all but I can’t.
      And yes, I find it frustrating that others talk about being depressed when they are a little sad. Black clouds are not depression. Depression is the whole freakin’ thunderstorm!

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  8. This is an illness that I wish we didn’t have in common. We also don’t have a problem discussing it either. There is nothing others have to fear when they learn a person suffers from depression. I think there have been too many stories of straight jackets, loony bins, and the violent mentally ill. You know what’s odd, I find it harder to admit I had lung cancer, and I’m praying I will live long and prosper. We just need to keep talking so that others feel comfortable enough to talk, and seek help. We need to realize there is no shame having the illness of depression.

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    1. You know when you said “Live long and prosper’ I did the whole vulcan greeting thing with my hand don’t you?? 😛
      But I agree with your words. There is no shame in being so strong that we finally collapse.

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          1. haha! Obviously I do that word thing typing, that I do with talking–finding the correct word. Glad you understood I meant cat. And yes, I’m positive he is plotting revenge…he’s that type of cat.

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  9. Depression can have several causes, and symptoms vary so widely. My own has been closely correlated with hormonal changes and immune system disorders – there have been difficult years and relatively easy ones. But it is a lifelong illness. I don’t think the interrelationship of our internal systems is easily understood by the medical or psychology profession. You are right about it striking indiscriminately; I think there is a focus on teens because of their age and the sense that their lives were cut short. That ignores those who struggle through their own lives with chronic depression. We are all in this challenge together – to figure out better ways to care for our mental and physical illnesses and diseases. You are to be commended for speaking out and trying to educate others and disprove the myths that surround the stigmas.

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    1. I do honestly believe that depression is mental and physical. There is much to be said about healthy minds and healthy bodies.
      I often wonder how much blame we can lay at the feet of those who put additives in our foods as well.
      However, it is not about blame but about working out ways that we can all function in this world on a daily basis.

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      1. Absolutely. And it does help to know we aren’t alone. I’ve lived with chronic stuff long enough that it rarely gets me down, because I understand the cycle. But I avoid stress like the plague – holidays are the worst because too much food, too much talking, too much stimulation, simply too much of everything.

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        1. I think understanding the cycles is something that everyone could benefit from however it means that you go through a lot of suffering in the process toward that point.

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  10. The more people discuss it, the more others will feel comfortable hearing about it, and therefore empathize. There is still so much stigma attached and blame laid at the foot of the parents when a teen suffers with depression. I have experienced the whole gamut of reactions when I finally got the courage to tell people about my teenage son’s illness. Thank you for helping to break down the barriers in regard to mental illness. I actually like that ad on tv that has a replay of someone saying, “Oh, can I bring my friend?”, and the other says, oh isn’t she the one with depression/schizphrenia, and the answer is “sure, cool” after the initial shock/ horror /deadly silence reaction of the first scene (what normally happens). It is interesting to see someone who has formally had little sympathy, suddenly have to face mental illness in one or more family members. They sure change their attitudes quickly. I hope your community does change their attitude and your statements to the group have started that process.

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    1. I don’t know if they will but speaking about depression and teen suicide in such a detached and clinical matter when it is about real people and real lives just got to me.
      I am sorry to hear that you were blamed for your son’s illness. I have heard that story before from other parents and it is sad. I hope that your son is much better these days.

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      1. Yes, it has been a struggle for all of us, but he has rebuilt his life. I think this norwegian proverb sums it up, although provided no comfort for me in the darkest days. “Everything, like the weather, passes” I wish you well on your journey, and echo your thoughts about the clinical nature of discussing people’s lives. I dealt with many specialists ( mainly psychologists) who had just no idea and little empathy, about what they were advising about…

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        1. I think it is difficult for professionals who have not experienced something themselves to show the necessary empathy.
          I am pleased your son is progressing well now.

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          1. I think they have the confidence of the theory but have had a life that has not allowed them to develop serious empathy. Life’s struggles albeit painful develop strength resilience resourcefulness and to an extent empathy. But also empathy is partly determined early on by the values in one’s early life.

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  11. I too suffer such depression and the stigma is so great I just don’t tell I wear my mask and cope the best I can and when I am overwhelmed I hide in the bathroom with a towel stuck to my mouth sobbing into it. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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    1. Oh Len, the visual of you sobbing quietly on your own is upsetting. I am so sorry that you feel you need to do this without others knowing.
      If you ever need to vent or talk, drop me an email please.

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  12. You are so courageous Sue! Thank you for standing up for so many people.
    I have to say, that combining depression and suicide in the same sentence is a guaranteed conversation killer that’s for sure! Imagine if you’d added cancer or child abuse too. ….
    There are so many things that we human beings deal with and yet can’t share because of embarrassment and shame.
    Bringing it out into the open is the most healing this we can do for ourselves and society.
    (Stepping down from soapbox and walking over to give you a hug x)

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    1. I don’t think I did anything special. I just put it out there that there are adults who suffer this also and that being clinical about real people with real issues isn’t helping.
      I’m just sorry that we can’t all talk openly about things without feeling shame or abhorrence.

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  13. You are so brave.
    I know everyone says depression is an illness but I wonder. I once had a professor who said depression could also be called disillusionment, disappointment or discouraged. We live in a world where it is easy to feel crushed. Maybe if we took the emphasis off people’s (perfectly reasonable responses to a mad world) we could remove some of the stigma.

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    1. I believe there are some for who it is as a result of medical issues – and therefore an issue.
      Whilst depression may also be called those things, I wonder though how discouragement can manifest such potent physical symptoms at times.
      I wish we could remove the stigma and deal with healing people.

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      1. He was one of my favorite professors and his field was counseling. It was an interesting lecture because removing the stigma of depression was the point. We are quick to say depression is an illness but not quick to talk about it in more complex terms. And that failure is part of the stigma problem. Most times depression is a reasonable response to an impossible situation. When you instead describe the person as the person is flawed (sick, ill, incompetent, genetically imperfect) others see them as wrong. That is one source of stigma. But if you say this person is assessing their situation honestly and needs social assistance rather than medical assistance or that person is going through a dark night of the soul and this other woman isn’t depressed she grieving a loss then you change the conversation and people’s judgment. Stigma is removed when you make it harder for people to judge those who are struggling.

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        1. This comment is so right on. And yes, the work to remove the stigma is important, appreciated, and commendable. But it is also important not to cast it as an “illness” when it is often a brave effort to bring one’s life into healthy alignment. As a psychologist, I hate the necessity of giving a “diagnosis” as if the person is somehow deficient.

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          1. I believe we need more people with arts and social science backgrounds to speak up about depression. By handing the whole topic over to science our definitions and treatment options have been reduced and mostly placed in the hands of profit seeking pharmaceutical companies. There are a few exceptions out there luckily but I would love it if people started examining depression and its place in the human condition.

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              1. Yeah. I think I read once where someone looked for a correlation between creativity and various diagnostic criteria. Two seemed to come up: bipolar and ADD. No idea if that was a one off and impossible to replicate but it makes some intuitive sense. I read a biography of Anne Sexton once that said something kind of nice. People were always discussing her work in terms of her mental illness (i.e. emphasizing her craziness) but the biographer turned that idea into: she was creative DESPITE her illness. I liked that idea more.

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                1. That is terrible that they emphasise the mental illness rather than the person she is/was. How do they not know that her illness was the reason for her creativity?

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                  1. That is what most people used to say about her: that her illness was the source of her creativity. But I believe she was so much more than that. Her struggles were only a piece of who she was and not the entire definition .. I dunno if that makes sense …

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          2. I had the same conversation the other day with others when talking about disabilities. The comment was made that in order to receive government funding, parents need to emphasise the negatives about their child rather than the positives. It’s sad isn’t it?

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                1. Yeah. I guess that is true in Canada, too. Bureaucrats everywhere have to make decisions: sometimes it is based on the bottom line and sometimes there are simply limits to what a system can do.

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                  1. I often feel that if the the government stopped paying themselves ridiculously large pensions and salaries, there would be more there for the taxpayers and those who need it. You know those people whose money that are living off? – oops rant for another discussion. 😉

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  14. How very brave of you, Sue. You should be proud of yourself.

    I think a lot of the time depression kills conversations because people don’t know what to say. Most people do want to give advice in most cases of trouble mentioned. For example, someone told me today that they thought they were coming down with a cold. I instantly said, “Oh no, that’s awful. Take some vitamin C.” But what do you say if someone says they’re depressed? An off-the-cuff, Oh no, that’s awful! sounds trite.

    I know what I would say, depending on the circumstances. I would offer as much support as I felt able to give. But many people out there simply aren’t as compassionate… or they just don’t feel up to the task of finding a way to say, “I’m sorry.”

    I hope I’ve explained myself well.

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    1. You explained yourself very well Linda and I agree with you.
      It is very difficult. Many times people who are depressed don’t want advice though. They want someone (as my friend did yesterday) to touch there arm and say “You know where I am”.

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    1. Wonderful to meet you . Thanks for stopping by to comment.
      I find that I am able to talk about it most of the time but I am aware of the stigma attached and I am careful who I choose to reveal my depression to.

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