I’d say we live in the greatest age of enlightenment. We accept that there are several ways of life, whether they be within or outside a faith; gay marriage is becoming legal in more and more countries. The voice against everyday sexism and sexual abuse is becoming louder and the information age means that we are exposed to opinions from all over the world, rather than accept the one given to us by society. If we want to inform ourselves on something we can do it at the click of a button. The birth of social media, blogging and indie journalism means that we’re constantly presented with different viewpoints, and alerted about world issues we didn’t even know existed. It’s increasingly harder to be ignorant. Yet one area that is still riddled with simplistic stereotypes and misconceptions is the public opinion on depression.
Because we are taught by society that we don’t discuss mental health issues, we don’t feel empowered to stand up and say “actually mate that isn’t true.” When depression is represented in pop culture it’s normally romanticised like in teen dramas such as “Skins” or associated with the emo fashion movement. If you type “depression” into Google Images you’re presented with several stock photos like one:
The majority of images are in black and white with negative connotations, which shows how two dimensional our shared perception is. I have suffered from depression on and off for seven years and I don’t think I have ever curled up into ball in the corner of the room!
So here’s a little post on what is complete nonsense on depression, For those who have never had it it my give you clearer idea of what depression is and isn’t and for those who have I think we can all relate to these annoying generalisations.
Surely I’m not the only one that gets bombarded with this seemingly harmless, but incredibly insensitive comment constantly? In fact if I had a pound for every time someone said this to me I’d be so rich that half of the things that I’m stressed and down about would be eradicated. The thing is is that it’s such a stupid thing to say, because if I was able to be happy don’t you think I would be? Depression isn’t a lifestyle choice. You don’t wake up in the morning and think “you know what I think I want to be depressed today.” No one decides to put themselves through this nightmare voluntarily. We’re not attention seeking, we don’t just like being miserable and we’re not doing it because we think it’s cool. Depression is like a cold. It slowly worms it’s way into your body and then Bam! one day you wake up and realise that you can’t function like you did yesterday. Depression is an illness. Ask yourself this: do you choose to be ill? (pulling a sicky to get out of school doesn’t count).
” Get over it.” “Don’t you think you should have gotten over it by now.”
Oh bitch. You didn’t just go there.
I’ve made it quite clear in my first few posts that everyone is different, especially in the way they deal with their emotional stuff. And no two people have the same circumstances or experiences. So how on earth can you decide when someone should be better or “over it?” When someone breaks their leg you don’t say ” You really should stop not being able to walk now.” If they’re not ready, they’re not ready. It’s the same with depression. Again I’m using n illness analogy to get the point across here, because so many of these misconceptions exist because depression isn’t seen as a “serious” illness.
Biggest. Myth. Ever. Half the time the happiest seeming people are those with the saddest stories. Many people try to put on a brave face because they’re afraid of showing their vulnerability. It’s not always the shy girl in the corner, the one crying in class or the one wearing black. It affects the socialite, the class clown, the bubbly shop assistant who lifts your day. Depression does not distinguish between popularity, looks, fashion choices or music preferences. It’s not confined to the “emo kids”
I think we’ve all been guilty of thinking is once in our lives, even if it was momentarily. I have. I live near Gatwick and when someone jumps onto the track there the whole line up to London just stops. I’ve sat on many a train tutting and thinking “how selfish”, instead of thinking about that poor individual’s struggle. And I’m really fucking ashamed of it.
Suicide is a tricky one. Because English has many phatic expressions like ” I literally died”, “this will kill me,” and If …… such and such happens, then I’m just gonna want to top myself” to express emotions in a cosmical manner we’ve normalised this feelings. So if someone said ” I don’t feel like living any more,” we probably wouldn’t take it seriously. Which is one of the reasons that people actually end going through with it because no one takes them seriously and convinces them to stay.
Our associations with suicide and selfishness stem from the whole stiff upper lip culture. When someone is emotional we think they’re attention seeking rather than in desperate need for help. It’s sad to say that we live in a society sick enough to see suicide and suicidal feelings as acts of attention seeking.
Some people take meds. Some people don’t. Meds work for some people. For some it makes it worse. We’re not all like the celebrities you see who are addicted to painkillers or anti-depressants. We don’t all have addictions. Sure some do, which is a reason why they’re depressed, but many aren’t. Meds are just one way with treating depression, like lemsip is one way of treating a cold.
Our lives are not an episode of skins. We don’t all walk around like Effy in some vibesy grey outfit with a world weary expression, puffing on a cigarette with a flat white in the other looking so over every single thing. Depression is not how they paint it in teen dramas. It’s not this “beautifully fucked up” façade fuelled by teenage angst. We aren’t always looking flawless in our indie garms because some mornings it’s physically impossible to get dressed. It’s not all going out to parties and drinking the pain away, because sometimes the thought of even having to talk to someone else exhausts us. It doesn’t make you cool, or wise or edgy. It makes you weepy, self loathing and paranoid. It’s not some romantic adventure that suddenly stops when you hit adulthood. It’s an unwelcome guest that pops up whenever wherever to show you that actually no you don’t have control over your life.It’s like the Ned Flanders of well being. Depression isn’t sitting around listening to “The Smiths”, smoking weed and contemplating life. Depression is crying over dropping a teaspoon on the floor, because you’re so “useless” that you can’t even make a cup of tea without making a mistake. Depression is waking up with a nasty feeling in your stomach that won’t shift.
. This is probably the biggest misconception, as many people think the words are synonymous. The online dictionary even says they are. (really?)
Here’s the difference. Sadness is a normal human emotion we all experience at times. It’s fleeting, it will come and it will go, but it won’t take up home in our body. Depression is an illness. Not an emotion. Not everyone gets it. It’s harder to shift and it’s more severe in its affect on your mood and outlook. It causes a warped mindset and constant negative thoughts which can lead to suicidal idealization. Sadness is usually a reaction to an event, whereas depression is irrational and is hard to trace back to its origin.
Yes we may have a good day, where we’re upbeat and we really enjoy ourselves. Yes we may seem better because we’ve had a good night’s sleep/eaten/ talked to someone etc. But that doesn’t mean that we’re cured. The voices are still there when we go to bed. That automatic sadness is still lying in our stomach when we make up, like silt on a river bed. Some days are better than others, but everything is essentially shaped by depression. It’s like cancer. Sure, you’ll have days where you’re able to do more than usual, where you feel pretty good, but at the end of the day you’re still ill. Depression is no different in that sense.
It really isn’t. I’ve been oblivious to my closet friend’s battles with mental health before because it seemed that everything was dandy. Often our inner thoughts are personal and we like to keep it all to ourselves. It is not in our culture to ask about such things, delving is seen as rude.
Depression can be caused by all sorts – age, genetics, boredom, stress, loneliness. The small, seemingly invisible things can have as much of an impact as the huge, heart wrenching events in life. When I first started suffering from depression it was because of boredom and loneliness, the second bout was stress and a lack of free time. It was only my most recent bout that was triggered b grief, but it had already started to arrive as a result of monotony and exhaustion. It depends on an individuals ability to deal with certain events. Each trigger is just as hard to deal with as another.
What is the biggest misconception about depression in your opinion? Do you feel that there are certain stereotypes surrounding depression/ mental health in general? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to here what you have to say.
In the meantime check out my Pinterest account, where I’ve created a new board filled with posts about helping depression.
Until next time lovelies,