Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Note About Depression

A few years ago, I did something that had previously been too frightening to do: I started telling people that I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder. Before that, I had always made excuses for avoiding situations, for having to cancel plans, for days where I couldn’t leave the house. I had to claim more headaches and unidentified work than any one person can claim in any given month. Anxiety was such an ugly and embarrassing word.

Finally, though, I experimented with telling the truth. “I had a panic attack last night and don’t feel up to coming over today. I’m sorry”, or “I’m sorry, but being in a car for six hours won’t work with my anxiety right now.” Sure, there were times when people would either give me the side eye or would just float out of my life, but surprisingly? Many people understood. Over time, I realized I could put some fences up when I needed to, and that most people wouldn’t step over them. That knowledge was freeing and relieved so much stress that I kept wondering why I’d waited so long.

But why is it so hard to admit we might be depressed? Why is it so hard to admit we may actually be very depressed?

This blog has been a victim of depression. My love for fashion, and helping women find confidence in themselves through clothes, makeup, and well-being, my love of conducting interviews… all of it has become a victim of the crushing exhaustion that comes with even considering opening a word file, typing words, and posting them.

The list of victims of this mental illness in my life is staggering.

Depression is not the same as sadness. It’s not the same as the hormonal swings women face when their menstrual cycles are fast approaching. It’s not crying at a sad movie.

It’s standing in front of the sink for five minutes, holding a dish, and not knowing if you can wash that dish, or any of the dishes. It’s being three hours late to a friend’s party, if you manage to go at all. It’s hiding from a family member because you can’t stop crying. It’s meaning to finish straightening a book shelf and never being able to. It’s never enjoying any of the food you eat. It’s feeling tired all the time. It’s not understanding what someone is saying to you because you’re too tired to even put their words in order. It’s feeling like you can’t concentrate. It’s falling asleep every chance you get. It’s getting a headache just picturing doing something you love. It’s losing all interest in things you used to care about. It’s looking at your past as someone else’s life and wishing you could have that
Depression is a serious, serious issue that has been stigmatized, made fun of, and misunderstood. People who have never experienced it are quick to offer advice that is usually unhelpful and ineffective, including telling the person to just stop being depressed, or making a list of reasons why they’re depressed. Or, and sometimes most frustratingly, they’ll say something along the lines of, “But you don’t seem depressed!”

Some of the funniest people I’ve ever known are also some of the most depressed people I’ve known. There’s a certain deflection technique in humor, as well as a tiny instant reward when you make someone laugh, and I think depressed people need that desperately.

But please remember:

Just because someone doesn’t fit your idea of depression doesn’t mean they might not be fighting it every day.

Just because someone doesn’t do things you think they/everyone should do, doesn’t mean they aren’t working as hard as they possibly can, and achieving goals of their own.

Just because you have depression doesn’t mean you need to be ashamed of it and keep it to yourself.

Just because your depression is overwhelming right this moment doesn't mean that in the next moment, in the next day, in the next week, month or year, that it will still be this bad. Everything fluctuates, even depression.

Just because something worked for someone else doesn't mean it will work for you, and that's okay.

For everyone else suffering with depression, please don't give up. Please don't think you are lesser than the people who can easily go about their lives and complete tasks that are a challenge for you. Please try not to compare yourself to anyone else at all.

Please be good to yourself.

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