The good news is that attitudes are improving toward mental illness. The bad news is that 1 in 6 people still believe that mental illness like depression is still caused by a lack of willpower and self-discipline. Can you imagine? If you’ve ever been depressed you know that it’s certainly not a lack of willpower that makes you feel like crying all the time. It’s not a lack of self-discipline that makes you hit snooze over and over again because you just can’t get out of bed.
The stigma around being depressed frustrates me like nothing else. Do you think I like being unhappy? Do you think that I enjoy it when the littlest thing makes me burst into tears? That I love it when a simple comment at work that is slightly critical forces me into the bathroom to compose myself, lest I show my manager that I’m about to cry? Definitely not.
For the first time in a long time this past week I had PMS. I recently switched from Prozac, an antidepressant to Lamictal, a mood stabilizer. For the most part, I’m happy with this switch, but I discovered this last week that my PMS, which is usually under control, was a little over the top. It was nothing out of the ordinary for regular people, certainly nothing like the PMDD that I used to experience, but it was enough to make me unhappy throughout the week.
This week made me remember what it used to be like before I went on the Prozac, and I hated it. Couldn’t I have “snapped out of it” though? Not exactly. There were undertones of stress and anxiety I felt throughout the week that nothing could really help. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I knew it was temporary and that in a week I’d laugh at the fact that I cried over the fact that Geoff didn’t get to go to lunch with his friends on Friday because he was too busy. (Yes, I seriously had a meltdown over that)
Unfortunately for people who regularly suffer from depression, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Not only that, but if their friends or family members are one of the 1 in 6 people who think they are acting like that just to bring attention, and that they can definitely help it, they must feel so alone. I’m lucky in the fact that Geoff understands, and lives with my occasional meltdowns. Others aren’t so lucky.
Depression is real; it’s often chemical and often the only way out might be medication. So lets ditch the stigma, realize that some people just can’t help it, and offer our support rather than our criticism. Then, and only then, will people realize that it’s OK to feel this way, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.