Last week was Depression Awareness Week and sadly I never got the chance to do a post, but I thought to myself, every week should be a time to raise awareness of depression in an attempt to quash the awful social stigma attached to this illness and therefore my part in raising awareness will be today instead.
Mental illnesses, such as depression, are more common than people think, in fact 1 in 4 of us will be affected by a mental illness each year. Just because depression doesn’t have a visible sign on a person doesn’t mean it isn’t there or doesn’t exist, depression is equally as valid as breaking a leg however the difference between the two is one is visible and the other isn’t. Over the years I’ve heard many negative opinions regarding depression and listened to the doubts of whether it was real, but the thing is it’s VERY REAL and I know this because I have suffered depression myself. No one would question whether someone had really broken their leg if they had a cast on their leg nor would they tell them to just ‘get over it’ and walk on their leg before it was healed; likewise there should be the same attitude from society towards those with depression, however sadly negative and hurtful attitudes are still being portrayed towards those with mental illnesses. Some may be shocked that such negativity is still happening or others may think this negative attitude towards depression only happens as a rarity but unfortunately the answer to this is wrong, in fact 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems will experience discrimination and stigma. It is clear this is not acceptable, just as it isn’t acceptable to discriminate against any illness, disability and race. Now is the time to break this stigma.
“Depression is a mood disorder characterised by low mood and a wide range of other possible symptoms, which will vary from person to person. An illness that can develop quickly or gradually, and be brought on by life events and/or changes in body chemistry. It can strike anyone, and is curable.” (Depression UK)
Depression is no one’s fault, this is one of the biggest misconceptions regarding the illness as sometimes both the sufferer and society think that they’ve brought this on themselves, thinking they should ‘just snap out of it’ or even at times society brings shame on the individual and accuse the sufferer of faking or being lazy when all of this is far from the truth. As Depression UK states, depression can be caused by changes in body chemistry, a lot of the time when someone is diagnosed with clinical depression it happens as a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Knowing this it is clear that a chemical imbalance in the brain is no one’s fault and definitely cannot be snapped out of, it is an illness which needs proper care and attention and it is this knowledge which needs awareness to help prevent more discrimination and negativity towards those suffering.
To be honest I never really understood depression until January 2014 when I had it myself. I was embarrassed to tell anyone, I thought it made me weak, a failure for not being able to cope better with EDS and my life circumstances and I thought that as a Christian I must have failed God. I believed that getting depression meant I hadn’t trusted God enough to get me through the bad times; but I was extremely wrong. As I said before, it is an illness, a chemical imbalance of the brain and that definitely was not my fault. God wasn’t angry with me either, God loves me, He does now and He did when I was in the depths of depression. It is suggested in the Bible that Elijah actually suffered from depression too and God was compassionate to Him in his state of illness and gave him rest and that is exactly what God did for me as well.
I want to share with you all a snippet out of my diary when I had clinical depression:
“Why do I feel so guilty? I can’t shift this notion that everything is my fault. If I had noticed these depressive feelings to begin with then maybe I wouldn’t be in this mess. Why am I such a wreck, so weak? Surely I should just snap out of it and wise up, but no matter how hard I try to do this I just can’t, I can’t do it. I hate this feeling, it’s shredding away at me. I am completely isolated, is everyone judging me and does anyone even care? I feel trapped by all my mixed emotions, right now I feel so guilty, I’m a horrible person and I just wish I was normal. I want to give up. I just can’t cope anymore.”
It is clear to see that during my time of depression I blamed myself and thought I should just snap out of it, but I was wrong and I can see that now. However I don’t want anyone else to go through depression placing all the blame for the illness on themselves. We have the ability and chance to change the whole world view on this awful illness and we can break this stigma now so others don’t have to be afraid of admitting how they feel. I kept my feelings hidden for a number of months and hence the end result was so much worse. No one should have to be ashamed of having depression and we need to break this stigma by educating those around us. Share stories, facts, statistics, even spread this blog if you want, but we need to start making a change now otherwise not all lives will be saved like mine was.
We are eager to spread awareness and help for other illnesses but I want depression to be taken seriously too, depression is just as bad and just as serious as any other. Therefore I plead with all who read this post, do your part to make a difference for depression too.
Furthermore, if anyone out there reading this post thinks they may be depressed or has depression I urge you to seek the help I eventually sought. Don’t be ashamed, none of this is your fault, speak to your GP or other health professional, talk to a family member or trusted friend or use some of the links I will add at the end of this post. But don’t worry, to all those with depression, seek help, you will get through this. To all those who don’t have depression; educate, educate, educate. Spread awareness and get talking, this stigma and discrimination needs broken and we are the only ones who can do it.
Start talking to start changing!