“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”
― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
Anyone else shed a tear or two last night during Billy Crystal’s moving tribute to Robin Williams? Although I wish they would have shown more footage of the talented actor, the message came across loud and clear – what we see on the outside has nothing to do with what is on the inside. It is sad that it took the death of one of the funniest men in show business to finally bring depression out from under the carpet and into the spotlight, recognizing it for what it really is….a crippling disease.
Depression is one of the most prevalent and serious mental illnesses in the world today, affecting approximately one in four women and one in eight men and an estimated 121 million people around the world currently suffer from some form of depression. Further, over 80% of people have symptoms of clinical depression but are not receiving any specified treatment, perhaps because they believe it will pass, or even worse, they feel ashamed.
Almost every one of us has, at one point or another, felt “blue” due to a disruptive life event or day-to-day stress. However, true depression is a persistent feeling of sadness that impairs our general functioning and lasts for more than two weeks. Although the word “depressed” is often tossed around like a baseball to describe periodic unhappiness, depression is actually a biological illness that doesn’t disappear like a cold or the flu. The sad thing is that a diagnosis of depression is not always believed by some doctors; therefore, a clinically depressed person who needs help will continue their day to day lives without any kind of treatment. Our society has spent centuries blaming depression on the individual and creating excuses for those living with depression.
As someone who has suffered from depression in the past, and still struggles from time to time, I know how it feels. The number of unfounded myths about depression is many; therefore, after a bit of research, I found a few that I have heard before and I’m ashamed to admit, have used on myself:
- Being Sad Leads to Depression – while sadness is considered a cause, anger is much more common. Feeling normal sadness due to a loss or disappointment rarely leads to depression.
- Depression Symptoms are all Mental – nothing could be further from the truth. Mental symptoms such as sadness, anger, anger, anxiety, confusion, feeling of hopelessness and emptiness are present; however, physical symptoms are very common including lack of energy, changes in sleeping and eating habits, stomach problems, headaches and body aches.
- Only Women Get Depressed – this one is such a crock! Men are told to tough it out and get over it; such advice is very damaging as depression can even more dangerous in men than women as they are more likely to avoid treatment because of the stigma attached to it.
- It’s Just PMS, Not Depression – okay so women can blame depression on PMS, what can men blame it on? This is perhaps one of the stupidest misnomers I have ever heard. Yes, PMS can affect their physical and mental state, but a woman’s cycle can last 5-7 days – true depression doesn’t go away when the period is over.
So what do you do when you have been diagnosed with depression? The most important thing to realize is that you are not alone and you have people in your life who love you. Although the tips below are not a cure, they are a good place to start on the road to recovery.
If diagnosed and treated properly, people can “live with” not “suffer from” depression. Don’t lose sight of your friends and family as they will be your source of strength and guidance – lean on them in difficult times and let them help you. It is amazing what one “I love you” can do.
Dealing with Depression and Loneliness (2013). Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/depression-pictures/depression-myths-debunked.aspx#/slide-10
Dealing with Depression – Self-Help and Coping Tips to Overcome Depression. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_tips.htm