The stigma of being “that depressed girl”
I’m one of those people who gets a thrill out of exploiting the taboo.
My mom always says “Well, you sure are honest!” I can’t hide anything from her, never could. I also find it difficult hiding things from the general population.
You can see in my blog description I’ve classified myself as a fat feminist. To some, my declaration or “coming out” as fat is me putting myself down. They don’t understand that being fat is a ~huge~ part of me. It took me years and years to reclaim that word.
I like taking the word “fat” and showing it to other people. When I do, I’m taking a word I was so ashamed of, a stigma I was so terrified of, and I’m reversing it. I’m putting it in your face so you can’t hurt me with it.
I suppose I’m doing the same with depression. It’s such a secretive, dirty word that not many people understand.
“Oh, she has a mental illness? That shit is serious.”
So—me being who I am—I’m openly telling the world I have an anxiety disorder mixed with a healthy dose of depression. I’m labeling myself before you can.
But let’s talk about the stigma of being “that depressed girl” or boy, woman, man, vegetable, whatever.
When you’ve got a mental illness of any kind, people are going to treat you differently. Most people—parents, siblings, friends, teachers—mean well. They really do. But sometimes, they don’t really understand what it’s like to face what you’re facing.
Sometimes they tiptoe around you like you’re made of glass. They begin treating you like a fragile, sad Christmas ornament on its last limb. This happened a lot to me, and still does. Any time I open up about my depression, there are always the people who tiptoe around me. It’s nice they’re sensitive, but it’s not as reassuring as they think. It’s like, okay, am I really that breakable? Depression already makes a person unsure of their footing, and when people reinforce that idea—mostly unknowingly—it makes it that much worse.
Then there are the people who aren't there for you. The ones who tell you to suck it up. A mental illness is exactly what it says. It’s an illness. Just a real as any physical malady. There is no “sucking it up”.
I’m lucky to have some amazing people in my life. My parents have been understanding and reassuring throughout everything. Most of my friends have been the same way. I’ve spent several 3 ams on the phone with my dad, mom, or friends just letting my thoughts out. For that, I will be forever grateful. I could never forget that.
The weirdest part about the negative connotations surrounding depression is that so many Americans experience mental illness at least once in their lives. The CDC says that 1 in 10 Americans report they've experienced depression on some level. That’s just the people who actually report it.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety disorders affect 40 million people in America. Now tell me why—after we've seen statistic after statistic that these mood disorders are so common—we’re still weird when it comes to talking about mental illness?
For the people like Gene Simmons who obviously do not take depression seriously, I sincerely hope you never experience the kind of despair that comes with that illness. I hope no one in your family is ever affected by it. Statistically, they will be, or are already suffering from it.
Bottom line: Depression is bad enough without making people feel like shit for having it. Try to be kind. Support them. Love them. Remind them that they’re never alone. It could really mean the difference between life and death.