Confessions of a She-Geek

August 25, 2014

Depression: Regina George of Mental Illness

Filed under: Media,Mental Health,Movies and TV — Teresa @ 4:54 pm

It’s been a while since I posted anything; real life stepped in while I was busy making other plans, and before I knew it, months had slipped by.

But when I found myself so deeply affected by Robin Williams’ suicide, I felt compelled to post something on Facebook that apparently hit a chord. Once the original post went up, I kept thinking of more that I wanted to say. Rather than adding comments upon comments to my own FB post, I decided to collect my thoughts on the subject and put them all in one place in a proper blog.

With all the news about Robin Williams’ suicide, one major point that seems to keep coming up is his ongoing struggle with depression. I can relate; my heart aches for the pain he must have felt to take such drastic steps. As time went by and more details emerged, we learned that Mr. Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at some point. Whether that was a factor in his choice to end his own life is a matter of speculation. I don’t presume to know what he was thinking when he made that choice; nor do I think it’s any of my business. However, I do feel qualified to speak as someone who’s been living with depression for most of her adult life.

Here’s the thing. When depression sinks its teeth into you, you are not thinking clearly. Your perceptions are skewed and you become your own worst enemy. You lie to yourself, insisting that depression isn’t a “real” problem, that your friends and family don’t want to be bothered with your whining and self-pity, and that they’d probably be better off without you dragging them down. There’s the fear that all your future holds is even more pain. Or worse, that if you talk to someone about it, they won’t care.

If you find yourself thinking that way, please, please tell someone. It’s the depression talking, and depression loved nothing more than trash-talking. Your family and friends want to help you. They do care. Your death would cause your loved ones far more pain than listening to you sharing yours. This hit home for me when someone I love came to me and told me how much he’d been struggling. I knew things weren’t right, but had no idea just how bad it was until he opened up and asked me for help. Words can’t express how deeply grateful I am that this person talked to me. Talking alone didn’t fix the problem, but it was a start and a necessary first step in addressing the issue.

While depression can be caused by many things, believe me when I say that it is not self-pity and it is not whining. It is deep, ongoing pain which could be situational, mucked-up brain chemistry, or some combination thereof. What separates depression from the periodic blue periods that are part of normal human existence is that depression does not leave of its own accord. Frankly, depression is a vicious, spiteful bitch who will mess with your head for kicks. Depression makes Mean Girl Extraordinaire Regina George look like Miss Congeniality by comparison. Depression lies. Depression manipulates. Don’t believe what it tells you.

I’ve come to see living with depression as being much like living with diabetes. It can be deadly, but with the right treatment and self-care, it’s totally do-able. And yes, the right treatment (i.e., what works best for you) may involve medication and/or therapy. Even with treatment, you will most likely still go through some rough patches – but you’ll also be better equipped to weather those storms. Your thinking clears up and you can recognize when depression starts trying to creep back in.

It’s also important to remember that the proper treatment won’t leave you wandering around in a haze of perpetual bliss. It’s not meant to. But when you hit the right combination, you’ll be on a more even keel. Many years ago, I got a pair of snowshoes as a Christmas gift. The first time I tried them out, I couldn’t see much of a differenced between walking with snowshoes and walking without them. It seemed to me that the snowshoes weren’t working, since each step was a good 6 inches deep – until I took one off and promptly sank up to my knee. For me, that’s what treatment is like: it’s snowshoes that keep me from sinking into the really deep snow.

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