poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for
-robin williams, dead poets society
I’m not gonna pretend I was the world’s #1 Robin Williams fan, but I was in absolute shock when I heard about his death today. I absolutely adored Mrs. Doubtfire and it was one of my favourite childhood films, and I have to say I did cry a little (a lot) when I remembered how there was going to be a Mrs. Doubtfire 2 movie. But Robin seemed like a wonderful, hilarious man and it breaks my heart to see he’s passed. Not just that he’s passed, but how. This is an absolute testament to the fact that the people who seem to be the brightest, happiest ones are often the ones battling demons. One of the tumblr posts I saw tonight blamed this “cruel world” for not loving him enough or something like that, and it got me thinking. People have some awful wacky perceptions of how depression works. So seeing as I’ve dealt with a particularly wild run-in with depression this year, I thought I might debunk a few myths surrounding the old… I don’t know, whatever weird synonym we have for depression over here now.
1. You can’t be depressed, your life is fine!
Nope. Not true. I mean, you can absolutely become depressed if you’re in financial trouble, or after losing a loved one or breaking up with a partner. Absolutely anything can cause depression. But the reason it is so dangerous to think that only these things cause depression, is because we tend to feel like we have to have a reason. And sometimes, you just don’t. For years, I struggled with panic attacks that would make me feel like I was going crazy, and it wasn’t until April this year that I finally went to a doctor after a miserable week of anxiety attack after anxiety attack. I told him I thought I was losing my mind. He told me I had depression. I asked myself, how the hell could I have depression? I’m happy at home, I love my friends, I had just gotten a car and I was so excited to be back in college that week. Everything was absolutely fine. But the thing with depression, is that sometimes your brain doesn’t work quite like it should. The part of your brain that should pass Serotonin around your body might not be working correctly, and all it is is just a chemical imbalance. It’s like having eyes that can’t see very well, or ears that don’t hear very well. Your brain can’t do ‘happy’ very great.
2. It’ll pass/I’m not that bad
Yeah, it could pass for a while. It used to come and go with me. But then after a few years of ignoring it, it came back and hit me so hard. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I was scared to leave the house. The longer you ignore something, the worse it’s going to be when it all bubbles up. If there is one thing you take from this, and you suspect there is ANYTHING up with your mental health, please go and see somebody about it. And if they brush you off, find somebody else. Just do not push it back until it’s too much, because nobody should ever reach the point that I reached. I felt so indifferent to absolutely everything, and I wanted nothing more than to just disappear. But this isn’t me trying to scare you, I’m just telling you that you can avoid that by nipping it in the bud. Don’t just assume you’re under the weather and wait it out, because it might go away for a while but long term you’ll suffer much worse.
3. If you start… *whispers* antidepressants… you’ll never get off them
Okay firstly, no. You can get off them as soon as you start to improve, even though it might take a few tries to find a medication that suits you. Not to say taking medication isn’t a terrible inconvenience to take every day, but this is the way I see it. If your eyesight isn’t very good, you get glasses. The glasses help you to see the world in a way that you didn’t before, and this is what tablets can do. You don’t curse the glasses. You don’t scream to the heavens and ask why you’ve been left with this terrible contraption. Women don’t whisper about ‘oh she’ll never be off those glasses’. So what? Sometimes our bodies fuck up, and they can’t do some things as well as others, but thankfully we’re lucky enough to have things that can improve that. Don’t treat medication as the enemy. It’s there to help you.
4. Everybody is gonna judge me if it comes out that I’m depressed
Come on, it’s 2014. Depression is everywhere. Millions and millions of people have it. If your friends are still seriously gonna get weird about mental health problems, it’s time you re-evaluate those friends. After I started taking Lexapro, a tablet used to treat Generalised Anxiety Disorder (when you get anxious over stuff when you have nothing to be anxious over) and Depression, I was always very open about it. I had no problem mentioning them. People are always going to react awkwardly, because they don’t know how they’re supposed to respond to that, but the more comfortable we are about these things the quicker we lift the sigma that surrounds mental illness for no apparent reason. And if we lift that stigma, so many others might feel more able to seek help
5. Why would you go down the medical route? Have you tried running? Yoga? Walking across a live volcano?
Look… everybody is different. Our mind’s work totally differently. Exercise and meditation help a lot of people, but for others it just isn’t enough. If it is GENUINELY helping you, that is excellent. But the more we push this whole agenda, people are going to keep running through their depression and pretending it’s helping, because we make medication seem like such a scary option. By pushing these things so much, we make tablets seem like a terrifying last resort. Treat all the options equally. Be open to anything. But be honest with yourself with what works and what doesn’t, and move onto the next if not.
The thing is, people try to explain depression. But you can’t. You genuinely cannot express what it’s like until you experience it, which I sincerely hope you don’t if you haven’t already. Sometimes the tablets make it vanish, just like that. Sometimes, you just have to live with it. But it gets easier, if you’re willing to get help. I don’t know how Robin Williams dealt with his depression, I don’t know whether or not he was getting help, but please help his death mean something. There are suicide hotlines everywhere, if you feel like you could do something bad, please ring them. They don’t judge, it’s totally anonymous, and they can talk you out of the panic. I just wish we could all be more open about mental health. One thing I’ve noticed in Ireland is that it’s somewhat ignored – we’re kind of expected to be tough about it. But battling a mental illness IS tough. Getting through a single day when you’re depressed is tough. People who fight these things are stronger than you know, and talking about it does not make that any less true.
So what if I am depressed?
I would not advise googling it. It’ll scare the hell out of you. Stay away from anything about depression online, unless there are people you can talk to about it there. Go to your doctor, tell them how you feel. If you think you’re depressed, odds are you probably are. Even if you don’t think you are – you still could be. I wouldn’t have thought I was depressed, the only reason I found out I was was because of the panic attacks, which were a direct result of untreated depression. Be open to all your options. Try exercise, try meditation, and if you’re ready, try medications. They’re not the enemy, like many people try to say they are.
One thing I would recommend is talking about it. This is one thing I swore I would never do, because there’s no way it could help. That said, psychologists to not appeal to me, but that’s just me, I realise they help others. What I find can help is explaining how you’re feeling to friends who are comfortable with that, or who have experience something similar. Often their are support groups where you can meet people with similar problems. Just talking about it and getting it all off your chest can make a tremendous difference.
If anyone has any questions to ask, or just needs somebody to talk to, I have turned my askbox on anonymous on tumblr. You can pop in at any time and tell me how you feel or just anything really, anonymous or not, and I reply as soon as I see it. Just know that you’re never alone.