When it comes to mental health, everybody has an opinion, mental health sufferers included. I’m tired of the opinions, especially from fellow depressives. Some people have a reason for depression, a situation, a past experience, an attitude, etc. I don’t mean to belittle any of these things. As I have never experienced them, I can’t even begin to understand the pain that can accompany such things. But, I do envy having a reason, a source, somewhere to start with therapy and something to explain why you are the way you are. It seems to be more acceptable if there is some sort of trauma attached to your mental health issues. Depression is different for everyone. Even if you think you know the facts and no matter how empathetic you think you are, you can never truly know what someone else experiences.
I don’t know why I am depressed. From the outside, it looks like I’ve got it easy and life is going swimmingly. In comparison to most of the world, I haven’t got it bad. Does that make my depression less real? Does that mean I’m faking it? I don’t think so, yet this is how I’m made to feel and not always by the general public, but by the mental health community too. How can we expect the rest of the world to stop stigmatizing mental health issues if we do it to each other. Sometimes, people mean well, but say stupid things like “Think about all the people that love you.”, “You can’t really be depressed, you still laugh.” or “You have everything going for you, think about how lucky you are.” I can forgive them, we all have our moments. Then, there are those that don’t believe in mental illness. Those people are always fun to be around. You know, the ones that say “There is no such thing. People in developing countries don’t have these problems.” I can forgive their ignorance too. What upsets me is the way people with mental illness or those educated about mental illness treat each other. That mine is worse that yours attitude really bothers me.
Here are some of the things I’ve been told by people in the mental health community that have really irked me.
- Meditation is all you need – get outside of yourself. (friend with anxiety)
Meditation works for some people and if it works for you, I’m glad. I don’t doubt that getting outside of yourself can do wonders, but I just can’t figure it out. I’ve tried guided and unguided. Moving meditation seems to work a little. It’s not that I am closed minded and not trying hard enough, it’s just not the solution for everyone.
- Just think- there are others that are worse than you. (friend with addiction)
This is not helpful. I’m sure there are worse out there. There are probably some that are not as bad as me either, but how do you judge something like that? It’s like saying you can’t be happy because there are people out there who are happier.
- That’s nothing, listen to what happened to me. (someone from a group therapy session)
I do find hearing about others’ experiences enlightening. It gives me another perspective and sometimes some insight into my own issues, but don’t belittle someone else’s experience when you share yours. It’s not a contest.
- I don’t get along with people who have mental health problems. (my mother-in-law, a nurse)
You could say here that it was my fault for not reminding her that I have depression, but she is a medical professional, she should know better than to say things like that. Just like people without mental illness, we all have different personalities. You can’t judge us as a group.
- It’s all in your head – you need to think positive. (counselor)
Believe me, I try, and it does help sometimes. Other times, it just feels fake.
- It’s probably just your period. (psychology intern)
Since it’s a cycle, I think I would have picked up on the pattern already!
- Why don’t you try to exercise more. (Twitter mental health friend)
Yes I know exercise helps. EVERYBODY knows. I do exercise, if I’m not, it’s because I’m ill or I’m having anxiety attacks over it.
- It’s your relationship/Ph.D. (my social worker)
I was depressed before my current relationship and I started my Ph.D. in hopes that it would relieve my depression. Some people just want to pin it on a reason. There isn’t always a reason.
- Do you even want to feel better? (my psychologist)
No, I like being depressed. Seriously?! This was because I didn’t take her advice on ending my relationship.
- This service is for serious mental illness. (crisis line operator)
I called because I was alone and felt like I was going to do something I couldn’t take back. Apparently I was too calm on the phone. People in crisis scream and sob and talk really fast. That’s just not me.