Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What do you wish people knew about your illness?

What is the one thing you wish you could convey to "normies" about your mental illness? Do you want to tell them what to say? Or how about what NOT to say? Is there a symptom you'd like to explain? Do you wish people understood exactly how you felt or what you needed? Well, here's your chance.

I've been doing more public speaking lately. As a result, there are many new readers visiting this blog looking for more information about mental illness. Based on their publicly verbalized questions, these readers are eager for information. They want to know what to do for someone with depression. They want to know "why men have a harder time" admitting to mental illness and seeking help. They want to know helpful things to say, or how to convince their loved one to get help. So here's your chance. Please help them out. What do you wish others knew about your illness?

Whether you have depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia, what do you wish people understood? Help my new readers. Help yourself. Join me. Let's educate each other. After all, I certainly don't have all the answers!! Thanks!


Anonymous said...

I'd want people to know that depression is treatable.
That comments like "snap out of it" are hurtful because I can't just snap out of it, if I could then I would.
With the help of meds, a supportive community and the things I need to do for myself (ie: exercise and eating right) I can keep my depression at bay. But I have to keep it a secret from a lot of people including family members, only very trusted people know.

Reason is I have heard my family say disappointing things about depression as I have an aunt who suffers from it also.

People need to be educated on what to say to someone who suffers from depression or some kind of mood disorder and also what not to say.

etta said...

Thank you for your comment. Yes, people do need to know depression is treatable! And I hate "snap out of it," too. I'm sorry you feel the need to keep your illness a secret from your family. I can feel how painful that is for you. Your pain highlights the need for education. Thanks again for contributing to the discussion.

deepblue said...

I want people to know how depression is so unique to the individual. What helps one person does not always help another. What one person may be able to handle while depressed, another cannot. Even how it feels can differ so much from one person to the next. I don't just want the people who know me to understand what depression is, I want them to understand what it is like for me. I want someone to listen and just let me know that they care. I don't know if there is anything anyone can really do or say to "help." I just need to know that they will support me through it.

la said...

That it isn't a choice, this isn't fun for me.

For example, I can't tell friends and family if I didn't get out of bed because they'll inevitably say, "I wish I could stay in bed all day!"

Be careful what you wish for.

etta said...

@ deep blue: Beautiful. I couldn't agree more. We, as humans, always want to "fix" things. I would like friends and family to realize our illnesses are not necessariy "fixable," and their attempts to do so may actually hurt rather than help.

@ la: Sometimes people say things without a second of thought, don't they? Would they say, "I wish I could stay in bed all day," if you had cancer? Unless they're totally callous, I'm going to guess, NO.

Unfortunately, the public doesn't YET understand mental illness is just like cancer. It is a biological, treatable illness, which affects the entire body. Like cancer it can physically sap our energy and induce acute fatigue. That's difficult for non-sufferers to wrap their minds around.

Thank you both for your contributions.

Colin said...

The 'snap out of it' stuff is pretty hurtful but understandable. From a normal person's perspective, if how you're behaving and acting is detrimental to you, you should change it!

Sounds simple, but we a. usually think this way to ourselves all the time, overestimating the pace and range of what we're capable of, and b. use the 'snap out of it' comments as ammunition for arguments against ourselves, as an indication that we're underperforming and should 'try harder'.

Accepting the limitations we do have is key to not setting unrealistic goals and then using the inevitable failures to create more self-hate.

It's unfortunate because talking about one's difficulties to someone who's not a therapist creates a lot of frustration for both parties: the depressed person is reminded again of her limitations and lack of capability, and the normal person is confused and annoyed by what comes across as the depressed person's willful desire to stay depressed.

Really this is an impossible concept for the normal, non-therapist person to grasp as they see themselves as intrinsically capable and worthy (and importantly see the depressed person the same way!) and don't understand what happens to a person's ability to change quickly when those positive concepts of one's self are absent.

I hadn't really grasped this dilemma until I read Linehan's books on borderline personality disorder – she does a great job of outlining the competing drives that keep someone with BPD 'stuck'.

etta said...

Thanks Colin. I have two thoughts. Your points about Linehan and BPD individuals getting "stuck" are right on. Fortunately for those of us with the borderline diagnosis, it is a personality disorder, and as such, it can be unlearned. Given Linehan's tools, I can learn to respond differently to my environment and thereby rid myself of the borderline traits.

However, it doesn't matter how many tools I use on my Axis 1 diagnosis, depression, as it is more clearly ruled by the screwed up chemicals in my brain. So even if I frantically use all the tools, the depression may still cause such severe fatigue as to render me temporarily useless.

In my opinion, there is a difference between the Axis 1 and Axis 2 diagnoses. I feel cured of my Axis 2 diagnosis, borderline personality disorder, because I've embraced Linehan's DBT tools in all my affairs. I don't feel I have that power over my Axis 1 diagnoses, depression. Although utilizing DBT, the Twelve Steps, and good self-care certainly minimizes the depression effects.

My second thought: Normal, non-therapist people don't necessarily understand cancer either, but they still seem to know how to respond. Why? Because we've educated people about cancer. It wasn't all that long ago, within the last 30 years, that people thought cancer was the fault of the afflicted, too!

Thanks again for your contribution to the discussion.

Katharine said...

I'm not faking. This is really hard. Really really hard. I'm trying really hard too. And I'm scared. But don't count me out.

etta said...

Beautiful, Katharine...thank you.

Anonymous said...

Things I wish others would know include:

Any serious contemplation of suicide should be taken seriously. Just because it could be a cry for attention doesn't make it any less serious. I wish I knew this myself, as I used to accuse myself of faking it for the attention, even though nobody knew.

Treat it casually. Don't make a big deal out of it, and realise that there's every little you can do to help other than be there. Treat us with understanding and respect.

etta said...

@ themadandwild:

EXCELLENT point! I hate that "cry for attention" crap! Of course it's a cry for attention! So how does ignoring it make it better??? If someone is crying for attention in such a lethal manner, they need attention! Quick!
Thanks for your thoughts!

Andrea said...

ps, just reading @ themadand wild

My dog yelps, I hug her then find out what is wrong... that goes for my children... are we to believe once we can articulate at an adult level we know what is wrong ourselves... or we dont need the hug