Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why We Absolutely Must Call Depression By Its Name

Recently someone who I care about a lot was hospitalized for a suicide attempt after years of battling with depression. He chose to make his intent known on facebook, through which there was a massive intervention by friends, and he was taken into safety before he could do any serious harm. He was well enough to post from the hospital about where he was, which was followed by a beautiful outpouring of love and support on his facebook wall. Many people had lovely things to say to him, about him, for him. Some were confused as to why he was in the hospital to begin with, since he hadn’t given much detail in his original status. There were many explanations of course, but not one of them, or any of the kind notes people left him made reference to what was truly happening:

My friend was horribly depressed and tried to kill himself.

Depression. DEPRESSION!!! Depressed. Deeeeeeepressed. I’m depressed. He’s depressed. De-pr-es-se-d. Say it. Depression. I dare you.

But hardly anyone ever does.

Instead, we tell each other ‘she’s having a hard time these days’, or maybe ‘he’s going through a lot of shit’. I’m ‘in pain’ or ‘life has been difficult lately and ‘I’m in a difficult place right now’.

But if you say outright that you’re depressed, the first image that tends to come to mind is seeing a shrink, taking medication and questions with statements like ‘why are you so negative all the time, just look on the bright side for once.’ People get teased and shamed for seeking help, afraid of being seen as weak.

Regarding my friend, who is currently on the other side of the country, more than anything, I sit in anticipation wondering if this will be a turning point for him as I so desperately hope it will be.

A suicide attempt is a notable event that often incites a lot of support and acts of affection towards those who suffer. However, once the ‘excitement’ surrounding the suicide attempt dies down, the underlying cause of such attempts, such as depression, abuse or other illnesses of the brain, don’t usually end when the person is released from the hospital, or two weeks afterwards, or six months. They continue, and the more visible forms of support (i.e kind and loving facebook notes and bringing over dinner…etc) wane. It then often becomes up to the sufferer to drag themselves out of their personal hell and seek help on their own, or with much less love and help than they actually need.

I’m not going to describe what depression feels like or is. This video from the WHO does a really good job of it, so I’ll let (or should I insist?) you watch that. Instead I’m going to advocate for calling depression what it is, a disease of the brain. I’m going to advocate for seeing people with depression as no different than someone with a severely broken leg or severed limb; something that can be worked and healed without shame or fear of being weak. This is a call to acknowledge what depression and other feelings are, and continuously speak out about them, discuss them, because this fosters a community of continual support that won’t die away when the dramatic event of an attempted suicide has passed.

Lastly, if you suffer from depression or any other mental illness, go ahead and say it. Tell the world eloquently and beautifully, showing the amazing person that you truly are.

For I am me, teacher, car-fixer, avid reader, lover of all things alive. I am financially independent, living on my own with my partner, juggling a full time job, hobbies, relationships and friendships and all the responsibilities that go with all of that. Behind closed doors (and sometimes not) I also have suffered from severe depression, self destructive behavior and anxiety (recently given the neat little label of ‘borderline personality disorder’), and I’m not afraid to say it. Some days (or weeks, or months) are worse than others, some are outright hell on earth, but some are also wonderful. I don't believe I will ever be cured of this clinical condition, but through much therapy, thinking and life experience, I have learned to embrace and accept what I am as OK and even successful. There will always be ups and downs in my life, but I know that for each down, there will also be an up. I can get through this. 

This is me, and this is real.

Thank you.


  1. What a beautiful read. I used to be depressed several years ago, and it was more than just "a hard time in my life." I feel that people tend to underestimate it. It's a serious illness. Fortunately, I was able to overcome it without any harm, and thankfully, your friend is okay.

    1. Hi Huda, Thank you so much for your kind note. I'm glad you stopped by to read, and I'm so so glad that you have been able to overcome depression as well.