Growing up in a small town that sits in a small county (7000 souls total…or I assume souls-some of the people are iffy) I kept quiet for a long time about my struggle with depression. I didn’t want to be judged or stigmatized because I have something no one can see. Now, at 37, I have decided I don’t really care if someone judges me based on my disease. After Robin Williams so tragically passed on and I saw the comments people made on social media about it I realized how clueless the general public is to mental illness. In an age of instant access to knowledge this is inexcusable. I’ve taken it on myself to post on my Facebook more about my struggles (though it terrifies my poor parents…sorry!) and to start a blog to speak out about the stigma of mental illness. My dream at the moment is to do this on a much grander scale in the future…God made me to advocate. It’s what I do.
Some of my favorite things I hear from people when they find out I have depression are listed below…I know that others have heard the same things spoken to them.
“But you’re always so happy…”
No, I let you think that I’m always happy. After years of dealing with depression you learn to hide it very well. When I was in high school I can remember calling a friend and telling her that I wanted to kill myself; I just didn’t want to live anymore. Through my tears I could hear that she was having a party and she must have told them what I said because one of the people there yelled, “then do it already!” After numerous incidents of insensitive advice, (just get over it! Quit being a drama queen!), you no longer trust that someone will understand your secrets. You don’t open up to people anymore for fear that they will either lock you up, not believe you, or that they will ridicule you.
Am I am a happy person? I like to think so. I love life, I love seeing the world and having its beauty shatter me. I love my kids, my family, and my friends. I enjoy doing so many things in life…until the demons come out to play and start whispering in my ear that I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, that life is not all it’s cracked up to be, and that I’m not worth anything. The pain that the demons cause make you hurt so bad from the inside out and it’s hard to focus on anything. Your house becomes a bigger mess, you start avoiding everyone, your performance slips at work because the only thing in your head is to focus on the next day, the next step, the next breath. You aren’t sure you’re going to be able to make it through that next breath because your chest is so tight but you do it. It’s exhausting. It’s debilitating. It consumes you. If you try to talk to someone about it they want to know the whys of it. Why do you feel this way? Why are you so sad? Hell if I know. If I knew I would make it stop.
“You’re so funny and full of life though…”
Yep. I’m a funny person. I make myself giggle a lot. Just because I’m funny does not mean that I don’t have some very serious moments that go on in my head. I am full of life because I feel everything deeply. If I find something amusing it’s extremely amusing. If I dislike something or someone it is with the hate I reserve for the fiery pits of hell, the mall, and rush hour traffic. Since I feel all the good stuff so deeply I guess it makes sense that I feel all the bad stuff acutely as well.
“You’re such a strong person…”
I used to laugh at this and say no I’m not strong. I take that back. Damn right I’m strong. I fight battles no one sees or hears. There are times that I am raging in my head so hard that my hands are in fists and it’s taking everything in me not to unleash all that I’m feeling on something or someone. Depression takes many shapes. Sometimes it’s complete and total apathy and to a person who is used to feeling everything this is horrible. It’s a void. A pit that you are trying to scramble out of and you can’t get a hold of anything to pull you up. Another form is the absolutism of rage: anger so sharp that you feel brittle with it and as if you are going to splinter into glass and cut everyone around you. I am a strong person…because I have had to be.
“Can’t you take a pill…”
Oh, how I wish I could! I’ve tried over ten different antidepressants. I either end up with horrible side effects, apathy, or anger so bad it scares me. I can’t take medications for this. I get by because of the Almighty, my family, and friends. Maybe someday they’ll create a pill that will fix my brain but as of now they have not.
Yea, and you’re boring. Boring and judgmental are the two greatest sins in my book.
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Nicole Sparkman lives in a small town in Missouri where she raises her 3 children and dog while working a full time job and attending online classes. She will graduate in 2016 with a degree in Human Services. Nicole has fought against depression since she was a preteen and though at times she grows weary of the battle, the fighter still remains.
Nicole can be found on her Blog, and Facebook
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I’m sorry that there isn’t a medication that will help you with your depression, but there is absolutely no excuse for the things young people said to you so many years ago. Borne out of ignorance and insensitivity, it’s something that needs to be worked on endlessly from now until the end of time. I think we’ve made progress but there is so far to go. Robin Wililiams is an example. People seem to be surprised that you have depression in spite of your demeanor because they would expect you to be sad and in the dumps all of the time. I was surprised that my seemingly jovial and funny aunt was a lifetime alcoholic with tons of depression problems. The problem is – what are you supposed to do? If you started bouncing off the walls you’d people would be frightened of you, call the cops on you, you’d never be able to hold down a job, and walk down the street without disturbing people. Plus we have the whole “put a happy face on it” society where we are practically expected to wear plastic smiles. So what else do you??? People would frown on you if you SHOWED your true depression.