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Babies, Parenting, Preschool, School Years, Teens

The Ugly Truth About Depression

To this day, we still don’t like to talk about mental illness. We’ve gotten a lot better, for sure, but it’s still seen as a defect, character weakness or the potential to do harm. We are scared of it, we are scared of those with it, we don’t really want to know about it.

The truth is, having any mental illness is just as blameless as having diabetes or asthma. Just because the disorder is happening in the brain doesn’t mean the person asked for it in any way or has any type of control over it. Yes, it can and should be managed, much like other health conditions. But to suggest someone with a mental illness is somehow inferior is just so unfair.

untitled by Daniel Oines via flickrOne of the biggest problems we have with mental illness is that we don’t truly understand it.

We don’t know what causes it and we don’t know how to treat it. We have a lot of theories and we have a lot of medications and treatments, but these are all just a bunch of educated guesses.

Depression is a mental illness that often happens quietly, behind closed doors.

It’s hard to tell it’s going on and it’s difficult to interpret. More troubling is the fact that it often manifests as a change in behavior. This is often why we blame the person for their illness or even fear them. But we need to have compassion. Being depressed may just be one of the most painful experiences in human existence.

I was depressed toward the end of my marriage. It started after we had finalized custody for my stepdaughter. During that year, I had discovered that she had been sexually abused. We had also adopted a new puppy and kitten, making our pet count a total of three. So I now had three children and three pets. My then-husband worked very long hours, so we only saw him about two days a week. I was a stay-at-home mom and I had no family in the area. The closest family was thousands of miles away. I had lost most of my close friends to new jobs or relocations. I was overwhelmed and isolated.

To top it off, my marriage was awful. Years of reading books and going to therapy had done little to improve it. He acted like he was supportive but he mostly ignored me. I was responsible for absolutely everything and completely alone.

As I slipped into depression, it was slow and insidious.

sunday morning depression by Thomas Lieser via flickrI began to lose energy and focus. I started getting sick frequently and had increasing physical pain. I was also diagnosed with an incurable, chronic and potentially life-threatening disease. That didn’t help with my sense of hope for the future.

I tried to fight off my sense of hopelessness with the knowledge that my children needed me. But that slowly eroded as my sense of value to them and my sense of contribution to the world began to erode as well. It wasn’t long before I began to believe that I wasn’t of any value to anyone. That’s where the real darkness begins.

Depression is the loneliest and darkest place a person can ever go.

You believe that you have no value. You believe that you are a burden to everyone, including your children. You believe that you have not (nor ever will) contributed to the world. And eventually, if it gets too far, you believe that everyone would be better off without you. You would be doing them a favor if you quietly slipped away.

It’s important to understand the thought processes of depression.

I have seen the accusation that depressed people are selfish. That is so untrue. Depressed people are not selfish. They do think of others. They just happen to wrongly believe that others do not need or want them. They come to believe that they no longer have a place anywhere in the world. They are in terrible, excruciating pain.

Take my hand by Gregory Bastien via flickrIf you are depressed, you need to ask for help.

Your thought processes are skewed. You simply are not thinking clearly. It’s not your fault. Your brain is just not working the way it’s meant to. Once it gets back in balance, you will have the ability to feel happy again. To feel peace, contentment and purpose. You’ve got to commit to putting one foot in front of the other long enough to get some help and see the results. You can beat this.

If you know someone who is depressed, don’t blame them. It’s not their fault.

You need to understand that they are suffering tremendously right now and they need your compassion. Get them help. They need help to get out of the dark hole of pain that they are currently stuck in.

Let’s keep the dialogue honest and open about depression.

It’s not a character flaw or personal weakness. It’s an illness like any other. We don’t berate people for getting the flu. Let’s keep mental illness on that same level. Destigmatize depression and those who are struggling with it can talk more about it and get the help they need. This benefits everybody. You never know which of your loved ones might need this kind of support one day. For those of you reading that are depressed or believe you may be depressed, remember this most of all:

You are not alone.

Have you ever suffered from mental illness? Anyone in your family? What were your experiences?

©UnnecessaryWisdom.wordpress.com 2013

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Depression

  1. My family has a plethora of mental illness, but depression is one of the ones that I have experienced (and am struggling with now). It’s hard to know the first steps to take when dealing with it, because you don’t actually feel like dealing with it at all. Thank you for writing this post. Such an important topic that needs so much more discussion.

    Posted by laughingpromises | July 4, 2013, 7:43 am
    • Yes! When depression begins, it’s often subtle. Once it settles in, there is no energy to handle it or your thoughts are so negative it seems pointless. That’s when it can get really tough. That’s also when family and/or friends can contribute in a negative way if they don’t understand. I would love to see depression handled just like any other health issue: “Oh, you’re suddenly feeling really tired and hopeless and not sleeping well? Get to the doctor! It might be depression.” And then of course, we would agree. But nobody even wants to admit to having depression in the first place. It’s terribly complicated. And it shouldn’t be. ❤

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | July 4, 2013, 7:57 am
  2. Thank you for your article and sharing your experience with depression. I struggle daily with major depression, PTSD. I have struggled with these diagnoses all of my life. In looking back where I can remember, I was not a happy child. There are many reasons for that- but I am working daily to remember that I am only as happy as I think I am, and to remember the miracles in my life- my husband, my son, my siblings. I try to remember that I have my intellect, my creativity, and, finally, some peace and quiet!

    As for the cause of mental illness, I truly believe there is an genetic component that manifests when certain circumstances have come to pass. By certain circumstances I mean an abusive or neglectful early childhood environment. It is the messages we receive from those we look up to and love that determine the outcome of our emotional health throughout life. We are all born a blank canvas and what brush our caregivers paint us with often determines our future happiness, mental stability, and ability to engage in healthy relationships with others.

    When you take a look at mental illness, mostly it is all about the emotions. Sadness. Anger. Anxiety. Even severe mental illness like Dissociative Identity Disorder is rooted in the young mind not able to cope with overwhelming fear, pain, neglect, and other abuses. In a nutshell? Emotions are to humans and wet is to water. You can’t have a person without having his/her emotions. When emotions are always painful, mental illness is the natural result.

    Posted by seagreen415 | December 11, 2013, 12:32 am
  3. I’m a student year 8 and my topic is technology. Many schools (like ours) have been chosen to take part in an ”apps for good” Program, this is where pupils make a app they think could solve problems and try and get their idea out, the winner gets their idea published. I chose my topic to be on ”mental health” because where i live (Britten) people go through serious mental states all the time, the most common, is depression. im learning bipolar depression and this website gives great information!

    Posted by School User | November 5, 2015, 9:55 am

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