Shedding the Shame of Depression
I need to stop living in shame. Why is it OK to have a physical ailment but not a mental one? But that is the truth, and I even struggle with my own bias against mental illness–against others and myself. I think I am weak and incapable. My inner dialogue and journal entries about not being able to accomplish anything are indirect conversations about depression. I can’t even admit the truth to myself.
Admitting when depression has a hold on me makes me feel broken. I came into the world flawed, like one of those rare coins that has an error. But everyone wants the messed up collectible. Nobody wants the messed up person.
The better analogy is a house built with faulty wiring. Things short-circuit. Maybe the power goes out once in a while. In the worst case scenario, the house burns to the ground, like Robin Williams. Some of us are lucky. We catch the fires right away, or rescue gets there in time, or the fire never quite gets going.
Sometimes things go well for a while, but then everything goes haywire. Sometimes you just get tired of dealing with it. Tired of dealing with the depression itself. Tired of dealing with the guilt and shame. Tired of sitting in an office, clipboard in hand, afraid to check the box that says you’ve had depression or have been treated for mental illness. Angry that you’re afraid. Angry that you have to deal with any of it.
Admitting something is wrong is hard. There are jobs I will never have, things I won’t be allowed to do because I carry the label of mentally ill. There are people who would tell me not to write this, that I’m airing my dirty laundry in public, that I’m broadcasting a disgraceful flaw when I don’t need to. That is the attitude that needs to change. Do you shame your coworker who has a cold? Do you shame the wounded vet in a wheelchair? Do you shame the person with Down’s syndrome? Shaming people with depression or any kind of mental illness keeps many from reaching out for help. If you don’t want to lose people or deal with people who are out of control because they are too embarrassed to seek help, then stop shaming them. Stop telling them to keep their bad feelings to themselves until the sadness poisons everything within them.
Imagine how much more genuine happiness there could be if problems are brought out in the light where we can deal with them. I think I’d be a better person if I didn’t have to steep in shame over my inability to “cheer up” or “get over it” or take any of the other flip advice that’s been thrown at me by others and by myself.
Yes, I’m guilty too. I admit that, and I admit I have struggled with depression. This is hard for me to put out there (I’ve edited several times now), to willingly reveal such a shameful truth. But I believe by sharing this, I can help shed the stigma. I’m no longer hiding.
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