People often mistakenly see my openness about my depression as a cry for help, or a method of attention seeking. They think that those who are genuinely depressed don’t talk about it and try to hide it, as though it’s something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Some are ashamed or embarrassed, but that’s because of how society still treats people with depression (I won’t go into that here).
Other people don’t talk openly about their depression because sometimes it feels like everybody thinks they’re an expert. We, as people, love to help and give advice. But advice is typically based on some kind of logical reasoning, and if there is one thing depression doesn’t give a damn about, it’s logic.
One of the most popular pieces of advice given is “Stay positive!” Seriously? This is wrong for two main reasons. Firstly, that’s kinda one of the big things about depression – we can’t just think positive thoughts and assume everything will work out alright in the end. Secondly, depression and pessimism are not the same thing – a lot of people with depression are positive, they are just hit harder when things go wrong.
Another common thing to hear is “Think about all the good things you have” or “You have it a lot better than some people.” Yeah, we fucking know, and then we (certainly I do) get a slight sense of guilt for feeling so shit when there are people making the best of shittier situations. Again, depression does not follow logic.
Something else people have said to me upon learning that I have depression, is “I’m sorry to hear that.” Please don’t be. I don’t want your pity or your sympathy. Pity is something you feel when you believe that your life is better and has more value than somebody else’s. Sympathy is something you feel when something upsetting has happened to somebody. Depression does not devalue us, nor does it mean we are sad or upset about something.
I was in the chemists recently, purchasing some anti-inflammatories, and the woman behind the counter asked if I was on any other medication. I said “yeah, antidepressants.” She gave me a look of pity. Probably the last time I ever use Boots again.
Empathy, on the other hand, is welcome. Having the experience of being in a similar position and being able to understand how that person is feeling is so, so helpful. Knowing that no amount of advice is going to be of assistance, but that a couple of nice words or a warm hug can make a huge difference. Just don’t try to compare experiences…
Okay, I got a little sidetracked there. Back to my original point.The reason I talk openly about my depression is because for several years I was silent. It festered and ate me up inside, until one morning I decided that I had had enough. I was seconds away from surrendering to the darkness in me, but ultimately found the strength to fight a little longer. That evening I opened up to the first person I could, a friend on an anonymous chat site. It saved my life.
Talking about it saved me. It helps me now. That’s why I do it. And one of the reasons I never opened up before was because nobody else would talk about it. And since I have been open about my own depression, so many people have talked to me about theirs. And we’ve helped each other.
Sometimes we get shortsighted, failing to see beyond our own problems. We feel lost, helpless, alone. I want people to know that they are not alone. I’m not asking people to open up to me, just to see that there are others who know how they are feeling. And that no matter how lost they may be, they can always be found.