D’You Get It Now?

robin williams

A year on from the very high profile death of Robin Williams do folks get that depression isn’t the same as sadness yet?

Do they get that it doesn’t happen solely because you broke up with the boyfriend and feel like an evening crying over rom coms and eating ice-cream?

Do they get that it is a period of such numbness, self loathing, sheer bollock madness and hatred that if people could read your mind they would have you committed?

Do they get that for the depressed it’s almost a tangible pain that you can feel and yet you can’t grab it and put it in the bin?

Do they get that it’s not selfish… It’s depression?

Do they get that it can affect you whether you are on TV, have lots of money, lots of friends, are beautiful with a nice home or you are broke, ugly and homeless?

Do they get that telling jokes to a depressed person won’t get rid of it?

Do they get that reminding a depressive that people are starving in India is dumb and slightly pompous?

Do they get it that when they say ‘Just leave me alone for a bit,’  depressed folks tend to mean it?

Do they get it that not everybody who has depression behaves exactly the same as everyone else?

Do they get that saying ‘I don’t understand why he / she did ‘it’. They looked fine yesterday,’  is meaningless. It’s not about how you look. Most depressives are fine actors.

Do they get that just because in the 1950’s folks just ‘rolled up their sleeves and got on with it’ doesn’t mean depression did not exist and people did not suffer undiagnosed and in silence?

Do those same folks get that whilst it’s their prerogative, it’s quite ignorant to comment on something they do not understand and have never experienced? And that they might equally consider commenting sagely about what it is like to live on Jupiter?

Do doctors get that when you are being treated for depression, sometimes you are going to miss sessions because…and I’ll say this slowly, well, um…YOU…HAVE…DEPRESSION?

Do doctors get it yet that we can have physical and mental issues simultaneously and therefore BOTH may require consideration and treatment… simultaneously?

Do people get that it can be triggered by something serious, something irrelevant or seemingly absolutely nothing at all?

Do they get that the brain / mind is just another organ and that even if you can’t see it it can still malfunction just like an arm, or tonsils and need treatment? In fact why do we accept that a hidden organ like the heart can malfunction but people still get antsy and weird if the brain does?

Do partners, relatives and friends with a depressive in their midst get that it’s not about them, it’s not against them, it’s not to spite them and they should stop adding their own attention seeking drama to the already heavy mix yet?

Do governments intend to keep sending mental illness patients to the back of the queue, shoving pills down their throats as a cure-all remedy and pretending by and large that they don’t exist?

Lastly, are people still thinking that mental illness only happens to other people when mental illness can develop at any time to anyone via genetics, a trigger experience or environment?

SCHOOL ME

One year on, what has been YOUR experience? Anything changed?

 

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67 comments

  1. When I was in my 30s, I suffered through a period of depression. I don’t know specifically what brought it on, but it lingered for about two years. It was easier to spend time alone in my apartment and crying than facing the world. I was ashamed I felt that way since I had good friends (who I pushed away), a nice job (I made lots of stupid mistakes there) and plenty to be happy about (as mentioned in other comments above, was reminded by all about that). What made it worse is I lived in Manhattan – not that city life was getting to me, but that seemingly everyone went to therapists and I didn’t want to be part of a fashion trend…which I believed it to be. Eventually, things got so bad I seriously contemplated taking my own life and convinced myself I’d be better off dead. Though I don’t know exactly what snapped me out of it, being aware of my depression and choosing to make small but positive decisions in my life eventually helped me. It was a battle I had to fight alone, but once I opened up to several people who were (and still are) good friends, I made improvements. Little things I did to improve my mood could be as simple as taking a walk and getting fresh air. Eventually I did see a therapist who helped me work through my depression and although I do have occasional bouts of anxiety, I’ve learned how to recognize them coming on and how to work through them. I still get depressed, but now I’ve learned to deal with it. I’ve never taken drugs for my condition, but if need be, I would.

    1. Thanks Gretchen. It’s refreshing to hear a positive take on your experience with a therapist and also that you are coping right now drug free, with the innate wisdom and awareness to judge when drugs might help you.
      There is just something about posts that I read telling people to go for walks and similar that gets my back up. I think it stems from the intention and agenda of the deliverer of that post. It usually sounds so disingenuous.

      This is not the case with you and I hope that this resonates with sufferers when they read your great input and are at a stage where they feel they can copy you.

      1. I can see how it seems disingenuous to tell a depressed person “oh, just go take a walk – get out, be among people!” It doesn’t work like that. Depression binds you to a chair, a bed, a room. There’s safety in misery, in an awful way, and remaining in a dark room alone made me feel that it was all I deserved, and I accepted that.

        At the risk of sounding corny, a journey starts with a single step. For me, getting out of bed and then the door was an exodus. Sometimes heading out in the street just to get the paper was a nightmare.

        But then, once I got out, I’d force myself to take a few further steps – go to the bookstore and have coffee there. Check out the street fair. Even just walking around the block. At first, I thought people stared at me because I was alone, looked awful, etc. It took time, but eventually I convinced myself/came to the realization that people walking around you look at everyone and no one. Once back in the sanctuary of my apartment, I’d feel better for have going out – an accomplishment, of sorts. Eventually, I realized this was no way to live. After losing a few good, treasured friends because they were convinced I grew to dislike them, I tried like hell to seek help. It took a while, but I did. Therapy helped me learn that it’s okay to reach out, to want more, to cry on occasion but believe that I deserved more out of life…to be happy, whatever that translated into for me.

        I’ve seen prescription drugs change lives – my friend Doug, who’d never be able to function without them is a successful artist, and my son, who has a severe case of ADHD and can now sit still long enough in class to pay attention and learn.

  2. Excellent post. There is still such a stigma attached to mental illnesses that it is not easy to talk to others about it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Great post. Before I retired, I used to visit with employer clients introducing them to a Behavioral Psychologist who helped companies set up Depression and Obesity Management programs for its employees. She would cite two very telling statistics. 1 in 5 people will have some form of depression in their lifetime, from mild to severe. And, you could pick up any company’s health claims data and 10% of the claimants would be taking a prescribed depression medication. Her goal was to help those folks whose general practitioner prescribed the medicine to also get counseling. People can live full lives with depression or other mental illnesses, they just need someone in their corner and to religiously take the meds prescribed, if needed. Thanks for the post. BTG

    1. I think we sometimes under estimate how important it is to have someone truly in our corner. Not all of us get to be that lucky.

      Interesting stats. It makes you wonder about the reluctance to understand this illness when so many seem to be touched by it directly or indirectly. Thanks BTG.

  4. The views on depression have definitely changed over the last 50 years. We’ŕe no longer “insane” or “attention-seeking”. What “normal” people need to get to grips with is that depression can’t be totally fixed with counselling and medication. These manage depression as if it is diabetes or hypertension – yes, managed, not cured. My belief is that true depression is genetic, and that people with no genetic fault (i.e. they are affected by environmental factors such as family, society, etc) should rather be called a Despondent. Both depressives and despondents may/will require counselling and medication but the long-term prognosis will be different. I classify myself as a Despondent and feel very sad for people who are depressed. No words can fix them; but they definitely need our understanding, support and love. Unfortunately, this isn’t a panacea but it will assist in relieving their feelings of isolation and loneliness.

    1. Interesting. I like the wordplay in that it does separate those who are rightfully sad solely from environmental triggers from those that might indeed have a genetic disposition. I think it would be one step towards people taking depression more seriously

  5. What a great post. What a great post. I have no answers. When I’m feeling blue-I self-acknowledge it- I say” Hmmm, why am I feeling this way?” I work on being quiet-so I can receive some kind of answer.” I think that just each person who struggles with these feelings has to be for the most part their own pick me up pill and many times I’ll also just read prayer or run a aspiritual tape. Since I know at the end of the day-what causes “that” feeling is basically comprised of thoughts whether conscious, subconscious or usually a combination of both. Have a great day!

      1. That’s really kind of you to ask and like you said it’s only been up since July 13th but took me 20 years to get there. So first I had to heal myself, then create the program and then work with others and the list goes on…LOL But I was determined!!! to do it and put shameLOL to the dieting industry and diets in general!!! So just having just ran my pen(so to speak) it’s going well. I’m working out the digital kinks of the web site and people are liking it and by signing up. I’m also working on my social media plan and so it’s all good. I’m in for the long haul-so you might say I’m a marathoner-and I take one day at a time and do what I can do and then let the rest go and give it the higher power (which is who at this point who runs my life!!!)! So again, thanks for asking and have a great day!

  6. Madam Ed, you could NOT have nailed this better! In fact, I think you should write a book, seriously. As a bipolar/borderline, depression is constantly with me. Thoughts of suicide have invaded my thoughts, ruined my world, and caused more angst in my life than anything, except the ‘know it alls’ who seem to think that their stupid ‘go for a walk, you’ll feel so much better’ advice is going to do the trick! Oh screw ’em. I know what depression is like, and it’s a bitch, and it’s very very difficult to deal with. You lose friends, make enemies that you don’t mean to make and life becomes very lonely. Doctors don’t help, as they are mostly very thick. Thanks for writing this. It’s fantastic and real! x x x

    1. Thanks lady D and somehow through a fairly dark subject you still manage to make me laugh. ‘Doctors don’t help, as they are mostly very thick.’ Lol.

      This ‘You lose friends, make enemies that you don’t mean to make ‘ is spot on too.

    1. Thank you! What a good idea to show it to family members – sometimes they don’t always ‘get it’ even then but the more posts, articles, TV shows they get herded towards, they will get there eventually – especially if they actually want to!

      1. Thank you for writing it! You are right, awareness is the key, and you’re doing a great job here. I think many people are afraid of mental health issues in general and denying they exist somehow protects them in their little bubble. Just my experience.

  7. I think society forces those with anxiety or depression to wear masks. False confidence, happiness, false emotion really. They’re shunned away and thus don’t get enough support

  8. Most people don’t take the time to really consider what it is like to be someone else; and this is true whether it is about mental health, disabilities, culture or religion. A lack of understanding becomes fear, which leads to attitudes of discrimination at its worst; or well meaning platitudes at best. The “hidden” differences are always hardest for others to relate to, unless they experience something similar themselves. It’s more than listening, it’s also being with someone without interfering and being able to accept who they are.

    Sometimes I’ve described myself as a functioning depressive. But I’m not sure that is even valid, it makes it seem as if I’m belittling depression, or worse, being trite. It made sense at the time because I went to work and had a relationship while I knew that underneath all was not well. But my depression does not cripple me; it’s more of a limp that I can often disguise. So what am I? Perhaps I am simply normal (whatever that means) with a predisposition to debilitating thoughts. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself and to be more open when I’m not coping. I’ve started to reach out and take chances – this can be scary and exhilarating. Actually, I’ve just realised that what I’m doing is learning to live with myself and all that I am.

    1. Beautifully put. I have so many favourite lines here.
      Absolutely, people shouldn’t have to read up on every ailment in the world to know just how to act towards others. Ignorance is acceptable, it only becomes offensive when people try and coach you through something they don’t understand, have not tried to understand and usually need you to change for their own convenience.

      ‘it’s more of a limp that I can often disguise.’ Love it.

      Yep, I was speaking to a commenter about just accepting who you are. EVERYONE has issues, if yours is depression then hey that is part of the building block that makes you who you are right now. Own it. If someone else is bordering on the offensive with their ignorance and can’t accept that, it means they can’t accept you so they can f*ck off really.

  9. And I have to add, I am suffering from a condition called trigeminal neuropathy, which is bringing so intense pain, they actually don’t have a cure for that pain, and prescribe patients in my condition with anti depressive drugs cumulated with ant epileptic drugs….honestly, anti depressive medications gave me soooo dark and suicidal thoughts….I don’t see the point to treat depression with medications giving literally….suicidal thoughts…. Depression IS a pathology with many interactions….and possible causes….and they just put a lid over all the symptoms….and forget about the causes….which sometimes can be nutritional, metabolic…and nobody is even thinking taking care of the roots of the problems….a lot of empathy for depressive patients, who don’t receive the right consideration, nor treatments….nice post….thank you

    1. So true. People are uncermoniously lumped into one category for the health services convenience and purse. We really have to be vigilant about what we accept. Doctors are human and make mistakes too.
      Be well.

  10. I lived with a friend through depression and it was really awful to watch, but I tried to be as supportive as possible. Now she’s ‘better’ if that’s the right word and it’s like a different person. To be honest it felt like depression stole her away. She did tell me that being told to ‘get over it’ was the worst thing because she desperately wanted to but just didn’t know how to! I really hope that more is done to raise awareness because it’s a horrible disease and it shouldn’t have a stigma attached to it.

    1. See now your comment reminds me again that depression does not just affect the sufferer. It can’t be easy standing to one side watching it’s work on someone you care about.
      She is lucky to have you. You are not replicated enough. And perhaps a swift knock with a two by four to the person who says ‘get over it’ might help as they lay there winded, surprised and bleeding ever so slightly and the depressive says, ‘Hey! Get over it.’

      1. It really does effect everyone around – because the person you knew is kind of gone! I am sure there were times I wasn’t as helpful as I could have been, when I was tired myself and didn’t have the energy to say all the right things but I hope for the most part I did my best! I saw her recently out here and said how glad I am to have her back and if anything she’s an even better person. She said now she takes every day she’s happy and is grateful – so at least she found a silver lining!

      2. That is such a good description, the idea that they have ‘gone’ because they have.

        No one should expect a non depressive to be perfect and there for them all the time, they may not have depression, but they have their own worries and issues too. The world doesn’t revolved around anyone, depressives included.

        i don’t rally against people who are real and miss the signs occasionally, or don’t know how to help. I rally against the knuckleheads who tell the depressive how they should feel and act and when they should ‘stop all this nonsense’ without ever trying to research the condition themselves. In fact I rather dislike people who do that on any subject.

  11. No I don’t think people get it yet. I don’t think they ever will. Nothing has changed for me. I know it’s a mental illness and for me personally, nobody really knows that I have a form of depression besides my husband. It’s just a personal matter that I wish to not share unless in a discussion like this.

    1. Lots of people feel like that and is it any wonder why. The daft responses they get, the unsolicited, knowledge-free advice they get, the looks, the assumptions, the presumptions, the prejudice, the impact on their jobs and or friendships.

      It is rare to meet someone who does not do at least one of the above and instead says ‘Tell me what, if anything, I need to do, know or research to help YOU.’

  12. I have depression and anxiety. No, nothing has changed. Telling someone that, ‘they have beautiful kids and a great life’ does not make a difference. Depression, in my experience, is about what’s going on inside, not outside. It’s an illness, not a weakness. It’s no more ‘in your head’ than cancer and it can’t be cured with a change of attitude any more than a tumour can be.

    Depression Quest is an interesting text-based game that can give people some insight into depression, if they’re interested. http://www.depressionquest.com

  13. speaking as an individual that has not experienced depression but has had friends with depression, it’s hard for people who have never been around someone that is a depressive or understand what it means to be one. I think unless someone has walked in those shoes they can never get it completely. After Robin Williams killed himself, I think it brought a lot of things to people’s minds. And unfortunately they blame alcohol, drugs and other things for their state of mind where as that is just a symptom of the issue. A lot of depressives use this to try to make themselves “feel” better and just makes matters worse. People in general need to understand mental illness is a real thing. And being depressed is a Mental Illness!

    Until that happens nothing will change. Has my idea changed since, no because I always understood it for what it was.

    1. Good for you. As an observer you have taken the time to let the depressive(s) tell you with their words and (in)action what it really feels like and you have listened.
      You are clearly not one of those people who only stay quiet in a 2 way conversation to think up YOUR next point, you are actually listening.

  14. I think that people don’t get depression for a couple of big reasons:
    *They haven’t learned to experience and identify their own emotions. We say, “I’m depressed,” when we probably need to say we’re distressed, sad, disappointed, discouraged or some other painfulf eeling.
    *Next, we like things to be more tangible. Measuring blood pressure or detecting an infection is so much less complicated than something like depression!
    Keep writing and calling people to understand. Some of us get it, mostly because we’ve been there…or know someone who lives with depression. Some won’t catch on; others will learn…and get it.

    1. Another good point. The mis-use of the word lessens it’s true impact on sufferers, similar to when people say they are ‘a bit OCD.’ They have no idea how OCD can ruin people’s lives.
      And yes, we humans like things to be tangible and measurable, except it would seem where church is concerned! 🙂

  15. One step forward, a million back… and you feel like you’re not getting even that right. The fact is, I just don’t know how to be in this world. Everybody else just seems so happy, so with it, like they’re actually going places. That surely can’t be the case for all of them though, right? Surely there must be some other miserable souls out there that can’t seem to make this whole life thing work. Right? And even if there were, how would that make me feel better or less alone in this?

    Pointed questions… each and every one of them. I wish people would understand that I’m not this way to spite them or bring them down. I can’t snap out of it. And I am getting help (but help is not a cure). And, look, I know it starts with me and that I’m responsible for my own happiness and blah blah blah… but at some point there needs to be understanding from those outside looking in. Just look through your incomprehension and please understand. Or at least feel with us. Don’t be afraid of us. Love us anyway.

    Each day we live through this is another day we’re trying. We are strong in our weakness. We have to be. And now I’m not going to write any more because I’m going to cry and you won’t want to see me cry. It’s not pretty! 😛

    1. Firstly T, You have many friends here. Online we may be but words have changed the whole direction of people’s lives before or stopped them doing daft stuff. ‘Here’ being my blog, your blog and my email inbox. Just ask for it if you need it.

      I don’t agree with the ‘being responsible for your own happiness’ thing where depression is concerned, anymore than being responsible for how quickly your bones mend after you break them. Depression is not a happiness choice, it is a physical change in your noggin that can be physically seen as a different brain scan or pattern to people who have no depression. This is why they use chemicals or spoken technique to try and reverse or temper it.

      Deep, deep under it’s influence most people can’t even get out of bed never mind trying to consciously control it yourself by skipping gaily through a park to ‘lift your spirit.’ You are more likely to lift a gun and shoot anyone who says those stupid things, followed by topping yourself.

      Non suffers don’t understand that. Perhaps as you start to emerge a bit from a deep episode can you think of self help cures, but speak to any of your depression brothers and sisters in arms and they will not need to be told any of this. If your partners, family or friends refuse to listen…well, I dunno…send them to me, I’ll set them straight.

      Our partners at http://www.theuberbook.com started a beautiful gallery page on depression. I say it’s beautiful because it’s not full of those ’10 steps to pull yourself out of depression’ articles.
      It is real people and their experiences selling nothing but their pain in the hopes that someone might ‘get it.’ There are some superb examples on there to show you you are definitely not alone. Ever. Go take a look when you can.

      http://www.thehomestyledirectory.com/theuberbook/depression/depression.html

      And crying ain’t so bad! It means you are not in that terrible numb phase because you are actually feeling something.
      My humble suggestion about how to be in this world? Just be. Everybody is NOT so happy. It’s a well honed pretence. Get used to accepting yourself as Tony ‘the cartoon guy,’ Tony the blogger, Tony the guy who sometimes has depression, Tony the husband and whatever else. They are ALL valid. Don’t beat yourself up for being any of those things, ‘cos you’re just basically fighting with yourself, much like a gay person pretending to be straight. Just be Tony. He’s kinda cool.

  16. Yes I think I get it, but only because of personal experience. I think it’s really hard for people outside of it to understand but that doesn’t stop everyone having an opinion ( often the more ignorant the person, the stronger their opinion). I think that all the misconceptions you list so fully are at least partly because we want simple answers to complex questions and we want to be able to sort things/people/situations out. To make everything neat and orderly, essentially.Depression is frightening because we can’t just make it stop, for others or ourselves. But the more we talk about this stuff, and sadly, the more we hear of so-called ‘unlikely’ people suffering depression, the more normal it will become and the more we’ll move towards holistic support and understanding. I live in hope.

    1. You know something, that viewpoint is right and also kind. Sometimes people just want things to be right again and simple like before. But when that doesn’t happen they can sometimes turn against the person already suffering as there is nothing else to take out the frustration on.
      Holism all the way yes, gets my vote! But I don’t know how that will fight through when every decision today seems to be based on profit making. Guess it might take someone who has had depression to be in the decision making seat.

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