For example, I’m a liberal sharer of my thoughts and views on much of what I do professionally, and some of my passion points around books or science or the English language. But I never share much online about my family, nor my religious or political views, nor the personal relationships I have with friends or otherwise.
And typically, I don’t talk about things related to health or medical issues, mostly because I don’t care to make people uncomfortable with such personal details. But I’m making an exception today, because I feel like it’s time for me to share openly a little more about an issue that’s important to me.
Throughout my teenage years and adulthood, I have suffered on and off with episodes of depression. To me, depression has been a very real part of my life and of the lives of those I love, and it’s very real. It’s not simply “having a bad day” or being in a funk. Depression is serious, it’s damaging, and it’s something that is often misunderstood.
It’s my personal belief that we have to work harder to remove the stigma that comes alongside issues like depression, because undiagnosed and untreated, it is one of the leading causes of suicide, especially in young adults. In fact, in 2006, it was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States (which ranks it ahead of homicide and illicit drug use). It’s tragic, and preventable.
In the years since my initial diagnosis, I’ve gotten a bit more comfortable with talking about what I’ve been through, especially when I’ve seen how many people are living with depression or related illnesses, and are so afraid to speak out. For the person dealing with the diagnosis, all sorts of things come to mind: I’m crazy, people will think I’m just dramatic, I’m broken, I’ll never get past this, I don’t want to have to take drugs in order to cope. For those that are watching, misinformation and the general lack of conversation about the topic leads to all kinds of misunderstandings, judgments, and crummy labels at worst. At best, those around the depressed person feel helpless, a bit desperate, and unsure about what to say or do.
That’s why we don’t talk about it most of the time. It’s confusing and scary, and downright uncomfortable. All by myself, I can’t do much to change that. But I can try.
I can share a bit about my story, more bravely and openly than I normally would, in hopes that someone else takes comfort in the fact that they’re indeed not alone.
I can talk about it openly so that perhaps people will educate themselves a bit more about the causes and treatments for depression, and understand more deeply what happens to and with those that suffer from it.
I can hope that by sharing my story, others will share theirs, and that we together will change the perceptions that surround depression for our own sake, and for the sake of those that love us.
I can reassure a family or a friend that they play a critical role in the healing and treatment of those around them suffering from depression, even if their role is just to be strength when someone has none.
I can raise a little awareness for a difficult subject in hopes that it just might save someone’s life.
I’ve done a lot of this stuff behind the scenes for years, and I realized that I was doing exactly what I didn’t want other people to do. I was hiding it, keeping it quiet so as not to make others uncomfortable with talking about something so visceral, so personal.
But discomfort alone isn’t a reason not to talk about it. So here I am, putting it out there. I know you’re out there too. There’s more of you, thinking that you’re some kind of pariah because of your diagnosis, or ashamed to talk about what you’ve been through because you couldn’t somehow prevent or control it.
Please don’t be silent. Lives truly hang in the balance because others think that there is no hope for them. We, together, can change that perception, and make sufferers of depression of all kinds know that not only do we understand, but we know there’s light in the darkest of places.
Won’t you share your story? Learn about suicide prevention and depression? Ask someone near you how you can help them cope?
This is a story that will always be with me. It’s part of who I am, and part of many people that I know and love. It’s important to me not to be silent any more. Thanks for listening.
image credit: MedEvac71