Let’s address this issue of depression; the ‘silent’ offender. I label it as such because the face of depression is many; and most of them, deceptive. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been depressed. And, raise the other hand if shame, embarrassment, cultural expectations or financial constraints have affected how you have handled same; if at all. The reality is, in today’s society, it is still more acceptable to get diagnosed with and treated for STD’s than it is for any mental ailment; certainly for depression. There is still a negative stigma attached to speaking about or seeking help for diseases of the mind.
Where we need to get to in our evolution is the realization and acceptance that seeking help for mental ailments is not tantamount to weakness; or heaven forbid, craziness. The fact that someone is no longer able to cope in either the manner they were used to, or the manner that society deems optimal, should not automatically mean they are then “voted off the island”. How…shit, why is it more acceptable to view an addiction of alcohol or drugs as a disease, than it is to acknowledge the prevalence of those struggling with depression? Why are we better able to forgive and treat those that abuse and over-use substances (and many, illegally) and turn our backs on and noses up at those that life has dealt more than they can cope with?
Depression is not a weakness. The inability to mentally cope and maneuver through any given situation or a series of situations stitched together should be treated as patiently, efficiently, effectively and respectfully as a patient presenting with the symptoms of a stroke. Depression can be chronic. As long as we continue to attach shame to these feelings, choosing to categorize them as emotional weaknesses that simply need to be “toughed out”, we will continue to have losses; and, we will continue to mourn the senseless collateral damage.
Listen, we’ve all had those tough days; those days when we couldn’t even get paid for a smile. I’m not speaking of those; even as I sympathize that they are indeed shitty. I’m talking about when those days extend past just a few, when the feelings of hope- or help-lessness continue longer than even you can control. You know what? Let’s look at some of the signs of clinical depression:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
I know we all lead busy lives; some more so than others. And, I know in the center of that reality is the resolve that we all need to just tough it out at times and keep going. The rat race and all that crap. I am asking, I am begging, if you need help, please ask for it. If you know someone who has started to exhibit some of the behaviors listed above, please take the time to stop, ask, talk and listen. Listen to what they say; but most importantly, to what they do not say. Do not be fooled by every smile you see; if you pay close attention, you will recognize that many are hiding some of the deepest pains. Address getting help. Encourage getting help. Facilitate getting help. Advocate for getting help.
Please…vow to live your life below the surface in your relationships. It’s invariably where you will find the truth.
Rest In Peace Mr. Robin Williams.
We didn’t realize you kept none of your smiles for yourself…