And thus I hesitate to write this post, as Robin William's death is not about me. And yet, his death has brought to light a much needed deeper discussion on depression. Which is about me. In the sense that I have depression.
Technically it's postpartum depression, but certainly there's some sort of statute of limitations on tacking on the postpartum bit. I mean, three years? C'mon. But somehow, saying "postpartum depression" get's me out of the "officially bonkers" category, like, "oh, it'll pass, it's just postpartum," the phrase silently mocking me like my pair of size 8 jeans. The only pair, mind you, that my toosh looks any good in. "Oh, that's just my postpartum flab, it'll pass. Speaking of passing, please pass the twice-baked almond croissants."
As a culture, we treat depression like it's just some type of bad mood or blip in hormones -something controllable with enough ice cream and rom-coms. People "struggle" with depression. Kind of like how people "struggle" with putting on Spanx. Or "struggle" with getting their kids to sleep.
But I'm here to tell you, one doesn't "struggle" with depression any more than one "struggles" with appendicitis. Certainly, as with most health conditions, there are ways to help alleviate some of the symptoms through lifestyle choice, but the underlying disease is still there.
And, since our culture has decided that depression is merely a struggle, implying one can just get over their sad-sack selves with a little gumption, chocolate and giggles, those of us with depression shy away from admitting our frailty. We try to laugh it off as a bad hair day or the all purpose standby, "stress."
Yet all the same, I cringe under the idea that people would think there is something wrong with me - especially my mind. My self concept is of a competent, intelligent, hopefully witty person who may be a bit of a mess around the edges and stick her foot in her mouth so often her taste buds are rubberized, but ultimately has her s*%# together.
To say this out loud feels like I'm admitting failure as a human being. I gather many with mental illness feel this way. If I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, that too might be embarrassing and I'd hesitate to ever mention the word "bathroom" in mixed company, but it wouldn't mean I was somehow defective, somehow unable to cope with being alive. And I don't even have severe depression. I just get sad and angry for "no reason" - never suicidal. Escapist, yes, suicidal, no.
So I think it's time we all decided there is no shame in depression. No failure in needing to take medicine or other measures to feel alive again. It's time for those of us with depression to let go of the self-imposed prison, and time for those who lack the "struggle" to lend an ear and a smile and still see a full person. Time to stop viewing those with mental illness as lessor, and perhaps start recognizing that those who struggle have a lot to teach the rest of us about living a life worth the effort. And I'll start with me.