Why I’m happy to talk about my depression / Blog for Mental Health 2014

I’m grateful for everyone who has commended my “courage” to open up about depression. But to be honest, there was nothing courageous about it. Truth is, I didn’t realize there was a stigma against depression,  so it was in blissful ignorance that I began to write and speak about my experiences.

alice-door-in-treeIn a way, it was also exciting. It’s like I’d been granted access into a secret portal, allowing me to explore the depths of a terrifying but fascinating limbo, and I have now emerged to tell the rest of the world about it! I’m now privy to the thought processes of people struggling with depression, how the experience is a lot more complex than a WebMD article suggests… You could say it’s somehow akin to the excitement of returning from an expedition to an exotic new world. Well, an expedition that involved being held captive by ghost pirates or the Chimera. And while I was still in depression, I talked about it because it seemed like the best way to be understood.

As I became increasingly aware of other sufferers’ fear of opening up or seeking help, I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. Did my outspokenness, both while in and out of depression, stem from an excessive need for attention? That is, after all, one of the common accusations heaped on those who do talk about their struggles. Coming across this quote by William Styron (most famously known for writing ‘Sophie’s Choice’) assured me that people can have legitimate reasons for being perfectly fine with talking about their mental struggles:

“You feel shame only when you’ve done something that you’re derelict about. I had enough awareness to know that this was not my fault. I felt laid low. I felt demoralized, and helpless. But I didn’t feel shame. I was pretty enlightened, if I may use that word, from the very beginning. I never made it a secret. I probably bored people by overemphasizing the fact that I was suffering a very severe mental seizure.”

–William Styron (1925-2006)

I write about these depressive episodes also because it helps me to process it all. A crippling cycle of depression would be a waste of time if one didn’t learn and grow from it. And as the positive feedback poured in and as more and more people I know opened up about their secret struggles, I decided I’ll also write for others. I was blessed with a gung-ho naiveté that not all mental health sufferers have, so I’ll exploit it for good.

blogformentalhealth2014I’ll end this post by expressing how excited I am to join a wonderful community of bloggers in the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. Launched by A Canvas of the Minds two years ago, it’s been growing and rallying sufferers past and present to encourage others who are struggling, and educate the public so as to replace “myths, misconceptions, and fears” with ” truth, understanding, and acceptance.” So with that…

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

I encourage present sufferers to open up about your struggles. You don’t have to take it to the Internet, but the people who love you want to understand and will stand by you. If you’re in school, don’t be afraid to ask for help academically as well. If you’re not yet sure you’re going through a mental illness, seek a professional and get a diagnosis. There’s no shame in going for counseling and taking meds. Just as we go to the hospital for a broken arm or appendicitis, our minds deserve the same attention.

Thank you, everyone for your continued support! The conversations I’ve been able to have and new friendships formed as a result of writing here have been an enormous blessing in 2013. Here’s to all the growth that 2014 will bring!

Love, Karen.

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19 thoughts on “Why I’m happy to talk about my depression / Blog for Mental Health 2014”

  1. Dorothy, and Theodore, mean “gift from God.”

    I don’t know if the woman I knew in the early 1990’s at a local nursing knew what her name meant in its original form.

    But I do know that she was a gift, and had something to share as well.

    However, by the time I met her, Parkinson’s Disease had made it very difficult for her to smile.

    Some workers there mentioned to one another that working with her was depressing. “She NEVER smiles!” one said to the other.

    I said to them, sure she does. They laughed at me. I asked them to join me in a visit with her.

    I don’t remember what I said to put a sparkle in her eye, but they both took note of it. Then I explained the “why” as to her smile, and “where” to look for it instead.

    Let’s face it, we’ve been force fed a lot of, frankly, garbage about what makes people, valuable, beautiful and awesome.

    Some beauty just cannot be seen with eyes.

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    1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this. I respect and admire you for the selfless, compassionate work you do! You probably don’t even think of it as “work.” 🙂

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      1. Sometimes, joy and work are incomplete without each other. If I may be honest, though, I’d have a lot more joy in my “work” if even 10% of my community of followers decided to become ACTIVELY involved. Not a lot is involved with this. Just help spread the word, sign up to join my email list, receiving a monthly email, and clicking on the forward button, then reap some rewards.

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  2. “You don’t have to take it to the Internet, but the people who love you want to understand and will stand by you.”

    This is something I’ve just begun to learn. My therapist says that a real friends WANTS to help you during these times, and that all you have to do is let them in.

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    1. Yes, it can be really difficult to believe our friends when they say, “You’re not a burden.” I suppose it’s because we feel like such a huge burden to ourselves. Supporting someone through depression is no walk in the park, and can really take its toll, but that they were willing to go through all that to see me get better was such a testament of their love!

      I wrote about how indebted I am to my friends here: https://karenwriteshere.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-occupational-hazards-of-supporting-a-depressed-friendloved-one/

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  3. Oh, is this a tour de force post for you, or is this merely typical? Doesn’t matter – you have me hooked. The community writing about mental health here is such a blessing to me. Looking forward to more of what you have to offer, Karen.

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    1. Hi, Sid! Thank you for your kind words, and I’m so glad you enjoyed what you read! Haha, I would say this is quite typical of how I usually write, though I occasionally take on a more serious voice for matters of life and death. Feel free to check out my “Most Read Posts” — the links can be found on the sidebar to the left of the page. I’ll be sure to check out your site as well (ah, and your daughters’!) :).

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  4. Your writing is awesome! I love that you touched on “outspokenness”. I have had several people comment to me how surprised they are that I can be “so open” about things that are “so personal”. My response is that if talking about things I have gone through and overcome can help or resonate with ONE person in that room…and they can see that I am here today. That all hope was NOT lost….then it is my duty to share my stories. There are some people who can not – and that is OK. I am fortunate enough to be able to…it helps remind me where I have been…and that I am always on a journey. Typically when I begin to speak for a while….others will start to feel comfortable enough to open up as well. I have been told I don’t “look” like I have mental health issues. Again, I remind them Mental Illness is a disease like cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and it does NOT discriminate!! There is no “look!” I love helping to promote awareness…and that’s what our blogs help do! Kudos to you my dear!!! I look forward to reading more of your work!! One Blog At A Time!! 🙂

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  5. Your blog is very inspiring. As a person diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder, it stirs a desire in me to express some of my own experiences. Most people don’t know I am bi-polar, so they thoughtlessly label anyone who acts “crazy” as acting bi-polar right in front of me. They need to be educated and know that their friends and co-workers may be suffering from mental illness, but it doesn’t make them crazy.

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    1. Hi, Christina! Thank you so much for your comment, it really encourages me to keep writing! 🙂 And I agree. Education is so important, and can make a huge difference: it helps people be more sensitive to the feelings and struggles of those with mental illness, it helps get rid of stigma borne out of misconceptions, it promotes understanding and social support for those who are struggling….and probably many other ways I’ve yet to discover. You could have a really big impact! 🙂

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  6. Great Post. You’ve done a wonderful job of discussing what It’s like to live with depression, or any other mental illness. It’s so important for those of us who live with Invisible Illness to talk about it and share our lives with others so they get to know us. We need to come out about it and tell people that we are here and deserve their support and caring. I’ve written a post on Blogging for Mental Health 2014 myself and think it’s a great way to share our strengths.Thank you for being here and being so upfront about it all. I totally agree with you.
    peace,
    Steve

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    1. Thank you for your words of encouragement, Steve! Our simple honesty about our struggles can indeed go a long way in helping and educating others. So thank you for your work, too! 🙂

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  7. Thank you for liking my post on the anniversary of Roe vs Wade. I’m honored that you would visit and read through the post.

    I’ve found that writing helps me through emotional situations (good or bad). Writing forces the brain to turn a feeling into a concrete expression – I’m not sure what happens in the brain, but it seems to bring some clarity. With the Internet you can share this process with many, many people. I believe more information is always helpful, so sharing through your blog has to be a good thing. As long as blogging is a positive experience for you, you should keep writing.

    Since you are a follower of Christ, I will remind you that God is in control of everything. For now He allows the problems caused by sin (evil, disease, death), but only for His greater, eternal purposes. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

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  8. That’s quite amazing and really commendable blog on depression and mind health.I have also some problems and was looking for the same information.It will really guide me to solve my problems and help me to understand the depression some times I feel severely.I would like to say you thanks for such nice piece of writing.

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  9. It’s interesting that you quoted William Styron. I believe his gift was that he was able as a writer to document and record what so many of us feel but don’t know how to say.

    I had a major depressive episode 20 years ago that required hospitalization.
    My wife didn’t know what was going on and wasn’t able to help. The physicians were less than helpful. I was fortunate to go into an intensive outpatient program with an excellent group. That group probably saved me. It was there that I realized I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t a weirdo or defective- I was just another person trying to get well. Unlike Styron though, I don’t talk too much about my struggles except for a few trusted friends and family. It seems self indulgent to me.

    I think people are a bit more understanding now but it comes with a terrible price- robin Williams, etc.

    Just keep holding on and hang in there.
    You can’t do it alone but you can and will do it

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