What You Need to Know About Depression Even if it Doesn’t Affect You

Here’s the thing:

Depression is a thing.

It’s real.

It’s a sneaky little bastard that can grow into a malevolent monster when you least expect it – even during the holidays.

The worst part?

Its attacks go unnoticed by your friends and family a huge percentage of the time. Why?

There is this stigma attached to it. No one wants to admit to depression. It feels like we are asking for pity and that feels wrong. We don’t want that kind of attention. No one does. So we hide it from you until it swallows us whole.

What I think you think: “Oh God. Nicole’s being all dramatic again.”

But what really happens is more along the lines of this:

Concerned friend or family member (you):”Hey, are you okay? You seem a little off.”

Me: “Yeah, I’m fine.”

This comic sums it up pretty well.

For years, I battled not only my depression but also the stigma. It isn’t easy wanting to ask for help but being afraid that you’re being “petty” or “dramatic” or “attention-seeking.” It’s much easier to not ask for help at all and convince yourself you’re overexaggerating.

I admit that in the beginning, I did not go for help on my own free will. The first time I met this monster, I was in college. I didn’t even know what was happening, but lucky for me, I had some really good friends. Francie (who I will never forget) all but dragged me to counseling. She put her foot down and said that if I didn’t go, she would bring the counselors to the dorm. She knew I didn’t want that to happen because then everyone in the building would know. And I couldn’t have that.

I remember the first time a doctor spoke to me about anti-depressants. Happy pills? Uh, no thanks. I can do this on my own. 

I was embarrassed. Ashamed. (There’s that stigma again.)

It went on like that for years. Ten years, actually. I was in a constant flux of working my tail off (three jobs all at once and up to three months without a single day off at times) and hiding out where no one would see the pathetic mess I’d become. It was the perfect excuse to avoid any and all social obligations (“Sorry, I have to work.”). There were good times, too. That’s the thing: it wasn’t all bad all the time. That’s one of the reasons I refused to believe I was depressed at all – because I had ups mixed in, too.

That first diagnosis was over fifteen years ago. I’ve come a long way since then but I will never forget the love my friend had for me – love enough to put her foot down to save me from myself. Life has thrown its share of wrenches into my storyline and I’m stronger, wiser, better for it. Would I want to go through any of that again? Hell, no. Depression is still very much a part of me and always will be (according to my doctors) but for one very big difference:

It’s not that I am depressed – I have depression.

We manage it, now, with the very medication I was once so opposed to considering. Medication that I will be taking for the rest of my life. And I’m finally okay with that because I’m tired of giving in to the dark.

There is no one cure or treatment for it. Each of us is different. We all battle different demons and the only way to figure out our most effective program is through trial and error with our doctors.

But there is one HUGE step – one huge impediment you can slay. You already know what it is. So, where do you start?

Don’t be afraid to talk about depression. On that note, don’t be afraid to talk about suicide, either, because when it comes down to it, the person who is thinking about it needs someone to talk them through the dark to come out safely on the other side – but if he or she doesn’t know they can come to you, then they most likely won’t. And when the dark is thick and heavy, they will feel so lost.

Suicide is real, too. Regardless of how you feel about the subject, it is real, and it is taking lives every day. According to the CDC, “Suicide remains a major public health problem, one that occurs throughout the year. It is the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans. Each year, more than 36,000 people take their own lives. In addition, more than 374,000 are treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries.

Be someone who helps to guide them safely through the dark and away from thoughts of suicide.

If you or someone close to you is suffering through a crisis or having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to Lifeline. They can be reached any time of day or night by phone OR internet chat.

If you or someone you know is presently in danger, dial 911 immediately.

Want something more local? Go here to find your state and closest call center.

Want to chat anonymously? The folks at IMAlive are ready 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – no judgment, no pressure.

And Francie, if you’re out there, thank you.

References

  1. The Annenberg Public Policy Center. [Online]. (2010). The holiday-suicide link: The myth persists. The Annenberg Public Policy Center (producer). Available from URL: http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/Downloads/Releases/ACI/Holiday%20Suicide%20release%202010.pdf [Accessed 2011 Dec 13].
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2008) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html. [Accessed 2011 Dec 13].
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