Depression Still Means Suffering in Silence
A TV show didn’t kill your daughter — depression did. And a cement platform under the Golden Gate Bridge won’t prevent your son’s suicide because he will still have those thoughts, with or without the bridge.
God forbid we acknowledge that depression is a serious issue, doesn’t have a cure, and even well managed depression is temporary.
I know a guy who researched and developed drugs to fight cancer. He described cancer as intelligent — able to adapt quickly and beyond the reach of whatever drug was currently working. Cancer ran in his family so he knew firsthand its devastating effects, yet he spoke about it with respect and, maybe, awe.
Depression does not warrant the same kind of attention. It’s still not real enough. We think it’s better to replace depression with something else in every equation. In news headlines. In obituaries. In our social circles.
Generally, I manage my depression well, but life isn’t smooth and the therapeutic routine I’ve established doesn’t adapt quickly enough to life’s fluctuations.
Everyone has experienced the stress and frustration when our carefully balanced lives teeter on the edge. However, I am not one of those people who handle these precarious circumstances with grace, grit, creativity, or self-discipline.
I want to tell myself that that is okay. That not everyone whose life tips too far out of balance will also have to deal with depression in addition to life’s curve balls. But it is hard to believe that when the vague way we discuss depression makes one thing crystal clear: depression isn’t a real threat. Not like cancer or cyberattacks.
When we talk about depression, it is still another word for weakness — we rob it of its destructive power and blame the suicidal. Am I so weak that my imminent suicide hinges on a television show or a cement barrier? So I hear.
Imagine how this narrative contributes to an already intense self-loathing. I feel guilty and ashamed and I want to hide my depression from myself as much as I want to hide it from everyone else. In addition to the potential admission of personal failure (this is my fault, remember, not depression’s) I am hot, toxic negative energy at a time when everyone around me is cultivating positivity and good vibes only. I cannot bring myself to reach out to anyone lest I ruin your vibe or establish myself as a Debbie downer you’d rather not have around under any circumstances.
So I suffer in silence, and the self-imposed solitary confinement only perpetuates the feeling of hopelessness.
How do we begin to treat depression seriously if we still view it as an individual defect or a trigger for mass hysteria among teenagers, those we position as more susceptible to peer pressure and bad decisions than other populations?
At my lowest, instead of reaching out to friends or family, I open my Notes app and write down everything I wish I could share.
And no, writing when I’m depressed is not therapeutic. Or creative. It’s not a hobby, like I sometimes claim it is. “I enjoy writing” actually means I am substituting this lonely endeavor for the meaningful connections I really crave. It’s what I do when I am 100% not okay. I write things like, “I am so tired of hating myself.” And hate myself even more. Or, “When do you stop feigning contentment? When you wake up tired every day.” Then I reread my words and cry until I’m also physically tired and can finally fall sleep.
This world has no place or patience for unhappy people. If we do not give depression a right to exist, we communicate to people with depression that their suffering is their own fault and force them into hiding. Depression loves silence like mold loves dark, damp spaces. It flourishes.
Don’t blame a television show or a bridge. Blame depression. Give it weight. Give it meaning. Maybe then we can talk.