Thread: The State of Mental Health
03-07-2013, 03:31 PM #1
The State of Mental Health
Earlier today, this was posted on my facebook:
All I could think of was how true it is. People just don't talk about mental illness because of the stigma. At the same time, the stigma will always exist unless it's talked about. With that in mind, I would like to get a discussion on mental health going.
As most of you know, I have MS. This is a condition of the brain that causes many problems throughout the body. The most noticable problems are speech and movement and when I was diagnosed I was told physical ability would be my biggest hurdle. It isn't.
The biggest hurdle is depression. No one told me I'd have to deal with this outside of a line in a pamphlet saying depression is sometimes associated with it. Many would think I have reason to be depressed; I'm not working, I have a somewhat painful and debilitating disease with almost zero explanation of why. It's not like I have cancer because I'm a smoker. I have MS because...I have MS. No other reason
One thing the doctors did tell me about MS is that (according to the most accepted theory) I caught something when I was younger, probably between 8-12. Whatever this thing I caught is causes MS years and years down the road. That sounded kind of stupid to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized my problems didn't start right before I was diagnosed, but way, way back. Through my high school years I would get incredibly random INCREDIBLY painful headaches. When I say random I mean 2 in a week then nothing for 4 months, then one then nothing for 6 months, then 3 in a row, etc. Even before that, I went through some changes that I'd always chalked up to puberty. I was incredibly athletic until I was about 11. At that time, I stopped having interest in playing any sports and got really into music. That's also when my depression started.
I was a smart kid, I listened a lot and it seemed to me that depression was part of puberty and adolescence and I would grow out of it, hopefully sooner rather than later. When I hit 20 and I still had the same issues, I started to think there was something seriously wrong with me. Once I was diagnosed with MS, things slowly started making more sense.
This brings me to the nature of depression. I can only speak from my experience, but I can speak. A lot of people say depression is a cycle of emotion, but it's not. If life is "peaks and valleys" and those who aren't depressed are walking on the downhills, those with depression are falling. I'll explain.
We all have high moments. Those times when we're on top of the world and nothing can stop us. When you have depression, that high is the first sign you're about to fall. That becomes your thought pattern. You go from "This is great!" to "It can only go down from here" and that starts the fall. Thinking about the good times ending is depressing and suddenly you're on top of the world and depressed.
Then that thought hits you. You have everything you want and it's still not good enough. You start feeling either like you'll never be satisfied or like you're a greedy pig for being depressed while having so much. This further depresses you.
Then doing anything seems meaningless. Trades you've made and have every intention of making good on sit unsent. Dinner becomes a bowl of cereal because why bother cooking. You stop cleaning your home and yourself. Then you look around and become more depressed at your state of life. You look around and see what needs doing, but you think "why bother?" you sit there bored out of your mind, but unwilling to do anything about it and THAT further depresses you.
No matter what triggers it, everyone is vulnerable to mental illness at any time. If someone has a broken leg, everyone lets him by so hobbling is a little easier for him, or give him a wheelchair and move out of the way. If someone has a broken hand, people will help him when he's out in public still trying to function.
Mental illness seems to be the only illness that we still look at and say "I can't see it, so it's not real". Society still looks at the mentally ill as freaks or "crazy". Probably the worst attitude that I've come across, which so, so many have, is the "When someone asks for help for depression, you know they're not depressed, just looking for attention. Don't give it to them, it just encourages it. People who are depressed are too ashamed to ask for help." The fact of the matter is people with mental illness are in a constant state of wanting help and the only thing stopping them is that attitude. They want to scream out for someone, anyone to just even listen to them most of the time. People with genuine mental illness are never actually happy. In fact, many of the happiest people you know probably deal with depression on a daily basis.
Basically, I just want to get an open dialogue going on this in any way possible. I figure this group is as good as any. Everyone needs to start talking about mental health for many reason (gun violence & murder/suicides come to mind). Maybe the more we talk about it in society instead of just the doctor's office, the sooner we'll all at least have some understanding of the situation.
And remember, even if you don't deal with depression or any other mental illness, it still affects you. There is almost no possibility of you getting through life without meeting and becoming friends with someone with mental illness.
03-07-2013, 04:08 PM #2
To be honest, I have a hard time understanding depression. You paint a good picture of how it perpetuates but I just don't get how it starts. I look at someone like Michael Landsberg and think, "What the heck do you have to be depressed about?" I recognize that my perception is part of the overall problem and I applaud you and people like Landsberg for trying to bring it out in the open.
03-07-2013, 04:53 PM #3
There are many things that cause depression. Traumatic experiences, chemical imbalances even inferiority complexes can cause depression. I understand looking at someone successful like Landsberg and thinking "Why should you be depressed?" We can see sadness, we can't see depression. Sadness is the closest way to describe it and people use "I'm depressed" much the same way they self-diagnose OCD for washing their hands a lot or ADD because they can't be bothered to listen to your story. People say "depressed" when they mean "sad" enough and the word "depressed" suddenly means "sad". Then asking for help with depression is asking for help with sadness and even I'm of the mind that sadness is a bit of a "suck it up" thing everyone has to deal with. Depression is a different animal altogether.
Then there's everything that does cause depression. Like in my case with MS. I've had a few clinically bipolar friends and they all dealt/deal with depression on a regular basis. One of my high school friends was the absolute happiest person I've ever known. He's dead now. He lost the battle with depression I didn't even know he was in. Another guy I used to know really well was clinically schizophrenic. He dealt with depression too.
In short, there's nothing wrong with wondering "What do you have to be depressed about?" It's a natural question and many times does have an answer (too much stress can't deal, people around me keep dying, whatever). I can say with some certainty, though, that no one dealing with depression wants to hear that question because they usually don't have an answer. You're basically asking them to justify, to you, why they feel the way they feel. When they can't, they feel like they don't have a right to be depressed, and they feel like you think the same thing. Basically, it's not being depressed about something, just being depressed. As humans we look for reason in everything, but it isn't always there. Why did I end up with MS? Who knows. Why do seemingly happy, healthy and successful people battle depression? There is no answer.
When dealing with depression, a question like you asked is seen as an accusation of sorts. You may be perfectly genuine and non judgemental, but it still comes across, not as 'why are you depressed?' but as 'You shouldn't be depressed.' As the person dealing with depression, you don't know how someone is going to react (not unlike coming out of the closet) and depression often includes paranoia, so no matter what is said, you're left thinking everyone thinks you're nuts.
Does that put the people asking questions in the wrong? Not by a long shot, but it kind of doesn't matter. Many with depression spend most of their waking hours beating themselves up inside their own heads. Because of this, the slightest most benign comment can seem like the worst judgement.
I think the things that are right now being done by Landsberg, Clara Hughes and even Kevin Bieksa bringing so much attention to the issue in the wake of Rick Rypien's suicide, as well as others, are amazing. I don't think I deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those people, but I appreciate it. I understand it's very difficult for many people to talk about their own issues and I understand someone speaking from experience tends to hold more weight than someone who's done research. I don't have a problem talking about my particular issue, as I'm sure I've made it clear. It's not something I feel ashamed of at all. As such, I almost feel an obligation to do my part to get people everywhere talking about mental illness and depression so we can move beyond the stigmas and stereotypes into truth and solutions.
03-07-2013, 06:08 PM #4
Thanks for posting! People need to be aware that depression, among other MI's can be debilitating and have an extreme affect on their lives.
03-07-2013, 08:49 PM #5
03-07-2013, 10:05 PM #6
03-13-2013, 05:24 PM #7
03-13-2013, 07:42 PM #8
03-14-2013, 11:22 AM #9
03-14-2013, 11:40 AM #10
About 10-12 years ago I used to date a girl with depression. She had to take a lot of meds. She would flip out over the dumbest things such as me looking at wrestling on tv. Not a knock at everyone with mental ilness just an experience that I had a while back.