Can I Just Say?

The Place to Bitch

Can I Just Say #9: Bullshit Advice about Depression

a mothers care“You have to love yourself before you can love others.” “You can only care for someone else once you’ve learned to care for yourself.”

There’s a lot of terrible advice out there about depression. Of course someone who doesn’t love themselves can love others. Love is not something we must learn to do, or pass a test to excel at, or reach a certain point in our personal development to feel. Love is pervasive. Even those of us who struggle to find worth in ourselves feel it, all the time.

Of course someone who doesn’t care for themselves can still care for others – it may not be ideal, but it happens all the time. Those of us who struggle to eat or advocate for ourselves can still have loving, caring relationships with children, the elderly, the sick, our partners, you name it.

Talk about “all or nothing” thinking!

We’re not somehow sidelined from these parts of the human experience. In fact, they’re often the things that keep us going, that call us back, that give us the strength to seek our own wellbeing.

I’m not religious, but I think of loving and caring for others as sacred acts. The next time someone tells you that you can’t do them until you get better, prove them wrong. Love them right through their ignorance.

Photo by Diganta Talukdar on Flickr.

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Can I Just Say? #7 – The Trouble with the Closet

StigmaThe trouble with the closet is that you have to lie ALL the time. I lie about my day, I lie about why I stopped drinking, I lie about my weight, my social life, my job, my plans.

And the trouble with lying is that it hurts. It makes me feel ashamed. Because lying is something you do when you’re scared to admit something, when you’re ashamed to face it. It makes me feel alone. You know why? Because it makes me more alone. I’m more isolated because people don’t understand, because they can’t understand because I’m lying to them.

Shame and isolation – just what the doctor ordered!

Even my therapist believes that depression is something personal – something to disclose only to close friends and family. I want badly to disagree. I want to rage at the injustice, the silliness. If it were epilepsy, if it were cystic fibrosis or cancer, not only could I tell mere acquaintances, but they might sign a petition about the NIH. My family might organize a fundraiser or participate in a walk-a-thon.

Do you hear what I mean? People might support me. If my disease were different.

As it is I’m advised – by every single person – to keep it quiet.

As it is I’m left lying, using a pseudonym to share my thoughts.

As it is I’m getting tired.

The thing is, guys, that I’m not ashamed. The truth is that I’m not alone.

It’s tricky because you really do run the risk of being stigmatized, being called lazy or irresponsible, incompetent, unreliable. The thing is it’s probably not a good idea to come out as depressed in most workplaces, to most acquaintances. Eugh.

I just want to say that if you feel like it’s wrong, you’re right. And you have no reason to be ashamed. And you are not alone.

Photo by See-ming Lee on Flickr.

Can I Just Say #6 – A Note on Psychiatry

Operating SystemI am grateful for the work that medical science has done on depression. I am grateful (really!) for the medicine, which I’m taking and which is helping. But can I just say that I would appreciate some humility from the psychiatry crew?*

Your science is very young. You have no idea of the actual mechanism of most of your tools, and most of your interventions work only in the short and medium term. You don’t know my body better than me. You don’t know my mind better than me, and you don’t know which meds will work.

You ask me to track my symptoms and then ignore me when I say that it’s driving me crazy. (Are these thoughts worse than yesterday? These feelings? Oh. That was a bad one. Is this anger or anxiety…).

What’s the point of a bunch of painfully collected data if you can’t even begin to infer causality? Am I more anxious than a week ago because of the meds or is it because I just started a job at a call center where customers tell me to go fuck myself? Please stop acting like we have a counterfactual, an alternate Mfupi who didn’t start that job. Another Mfupi with my biology and history who’s not on the meds you recently switched me to. Just stop.

Also, there aren’t that many drugs for depression. You should be familiar with them.

I appreciate your help. I believe you have my best interests at heart, just have some humility. Please recognize that “everyone is different” means that you don’t actually know how to help me.

So don’t act like my doubts = noncompliance. This isn’t a relationship in which one person should comply. This is a partnership. You bring your imperfect understanding of my condition. I’ll bring my imperfect interpretations of my thoughts and feelings. And we’ll figure it out together.

Thanks.

 

*I’m a huge fan of psychology, where PhDs and other experts provide talk therapy. This post is about the medical field of psychiatry, which, for depression, mostly concerns itself with managing medication regimens.

Photo by Mark Anderson on Flickr

Can I Just Say? #5

learn_hard_wayCan I just say that I hate it when people act like depression is a valuable learning experience? That it is an “all is for the best in the end” kind of thing?

Depression is a learning experience like stubbing your toe is a learning experience – it hurts like hell and yeah, you learn things. You learn not to do things you never wanted to do in the first place. Things you never meant to do, things you never realized you were doing, things that you surely would have avoided if you had known.

I’m not saying that there are no positive outcomes of depression. You delve. You awaken to deeper truths about what you want. It’s just that it’s not worthwhile. It’s not worth it.

‘Cause you know what else teaches you things? You know what can open your eyes to the beauty of the world around us? Not having depression. Having the confidence to get that better job. Still enjoying that relationship. Getting out of bed every day. Those are the learning experiences.

You wouldn’t tell someone with migraines how much they’re learning. You wouldn’t say it to the victim of a car accident as they’re laying on their back in the hospital, looking for a helping hand. Sure, I’m learning. Because I’m hurting. I didn’t mean to stub my fucking toe. I didn’t mean to fall ill like this. I want to get better and lecturing me about lessons learned is not helping.

Lord, what I’d give to be learning something besides how to not be depressed. That’s what I’m striving for. To get back to that learning. To get back to the world.

 

Photo: Learning the Hard Way by Ludovic Berton on Flickr

Can I Just Say? #4

We act like therapy – or any kind of treatment – is a precious resource to be meted out like freaking truffles. Don’t take too much! You might… What? Get better?

Is there some limit on talking that I don’t know about? Will being honest about the way you feel hurt your voice or something?

Treatments for depression are not like sleeping pills – fine in a pinch but don’t become dependent! Treatment for depression is the way we become independent.

After ten years in a shitstorm, I’ve been in treatment for six months and you know what?

I’m finally healing. And my voice feels just fine.

 

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