Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Should Talk

Since the suicide of Robin Williams, I've noticed a lot of people are talking about depression. Good. We should talk about it. It's one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and still it is so hard for people who suffer from it to get the help they need.

It's a complicated disorder that is hard to treat. Not everyone responds to therapy, not everyone responds to medication. Every brain is different.  Part of that is because we don't fully understand what causes it. Another part of it is because the word depression is used far too liberally. Not incorrectly, I might add, but the fact that the word has a definition in common use (i.e. to feel depressed is to feel sad) has done a disservice to those who suffer from the disease that is depression. They are not the same thing. This bears repeating: feeling "depressed" and suffering from clinical depression are two different and entirely unrelated things. One is a feeling - the opposite of feeling elated - and one is a very serious mental disorder that goes so far beyond what one simply 'feels.' They are not related. It's unfortunate that they use the same word.

My friend Enid wrote on the subject again and she said something that I've found largely and disappointingly to be true, "But you know what's really fucking hard? Explaining depression to a loved one who doesn't understand it." We talked about this and agreed that it's awesome that someone does not know what depression is, but that makes it so hard to try to talk about what we're going through to someone who just doesn't get it. Maybe they can't separate the two uses of the word in their mind, which is usually what's going on when we're told to just get over it. It's painfully frustrating. You can just get over a feeling, but when something in your brain isn't working right, you can't just wish that away.

I came across this lovely and fun video (ignoring the irrelevant plug at the end) that talks a little about what is happening in the brain of a person with clinical depression. "It is important to remember that depression is a disease with a biological basis." Not a feeling. A biological disease.

Unfortunately, the more articles I see about depression and how something really must be done about treating it, the more people who can't separate the feeling from the medical condition come out too. It's not just my loved ones or Enid's loved ones but so many people in the world too. This means we have to fight so very hard to get by in a world that barely recognizes what is going on in our brains. But let's keep the conversations going. Maybe some day the people who have made up their minds about what depression is will learn something. Maybe then, more people will realize that those of us who suffer need more help.

It's like being trapped inside your own mind - as so many mental disorders are. That mind, your jailer, tells you you're worthless, you're loathsome, you don't deserve to be happy, no one cares for you and no one should, you're a waste of space and in everyone's way, and if you died the people around you would be better for it. It's all lies, we've talked about this before, but it's so loud it drowns out everything else. When that's the only voice you hear, you don't see them as the lies they are. You see them as the only truths you know. And that last one is the most dangerous thing your mind can ever tell you.

You can think of it like being in an abusive relationship. Your mind is your abuser, and it sets out to separate you from everyone else. Of course, if you've never been abused by someone you should be able to trust, it's hard to understand what they're going through too. I used to be one of them; one of those people who would say "just leave." 'Just leave' is like 'just get over it,' you can't and why you can't is complicated and hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it.  But that's another topic altogether.

We need to keep talking about this. We need more people to understand what is really going on, and more people to understand that you don't have to have a trigger event to suffer from it, and more people to realize how someone's mind can be their own enemy. I wish people didn't have to understand it, that there was no need for any of this at all, but it is not so.