Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression is much deadlier than "the blues"

There are many people who suspect death might be better than life. Not all of us run the (one-way) experiment of suicide, but doubting that life is worthwhile is a much more common outlook than the media would have us believe. Most of us simply never talk about how much we long to take the place of people who die of illness, in combat, or on the streets, especially when those people have children to raise and we do not. 

I wish Americans would accept how much pain there is for many of us, just in daily life. We hear about suicides such as Robin Williams' and are shocked every time. Robin had biplolar disorder. When will we face the reality that mental illness is extremely widespread? When your world has narrowed to the pain of simply being alive and your only goal is to end your agony, then yes, suicide is a solution. It's a solution to the problem of being alive.

People who hold Williams’ responsible for the pain he has caused his wife and family show a fundamental lack of understanding of bipolar disorder, part of which is major depression. Depression isn't just having a bad day. The distortions of depression unhinge you from reason. No suicidal person ends it because she/he no longer cares about loved ones. “Selfishness” doesn’t apply to depression the way many Americans seem to think it does.

But Americans are too squeamish to accept that a large number of people live with bipolar disorder. We naively offer platitudes and logic to convince the despairing that life is worthwhile. We hope that calling out "Don't give up!" will fulfill our responsibility to those who need so much more. We think depression means feeling blue, only more so. We fail to grasp that depression can become dangerously delusional so that the person can’t help himself and truly can’t see any other way out of the pain.

No matter what your experience is, try to step outside of it and consider that life is too hard for a lot of people, and those people need much more support and care than they get. We’re your friends. We're in your family. Stop denying the prevalence of mental illness, the evidence of which is plainly before you every time another one of us drops.


Sally said...

Well said (typed). Depression is a disease of the mind. At my worst, my mind told me that my mother would be better off without me, that my husband deserved a "better" wife, that my newborn needed an entirely different mother. I could not be convinced otherwise without medication and a good doctor. And time. Lots and lots of time.

During my last bout, which nearly killed me, well-meaning people said things like, "Why can't you be happy? Why don't you focus on the positive?" This was as helpful as asking, "Why can't you be petite?" I am 5'10". I was born tall. I will always be tall. I can change many things about myself, but not my height. Or the fact that occasionally, despite all best efforts, I fall into depression.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Thank you VERY MUCH, Sally. You inspired me to write what I just posted tonight.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Sally, I appreciate comments like yours SO MUCH. They make me feel like I'm not alone, like there ARE others who understand. We need many more people to share their experiences with depression. It's very healing. Thank you again!!

Isis said...

Thank you for this post. I very much like hearing an alternative to the "selfish" narratives out there regarding suicide. I'd like to offer others that suggest suicide is a selfless act. Suicide bombers kill themselves for faith or nationalism. Believers in Christianity believe Jesus "gave his life" to save us. Sounds like selfless suicide to me. Pregnant women have been known to choose their fetus over themselves if burdened with a choice. When Julia Roberts chose to get pregnant in Steel Magnolias? Not a dry eye in the house. She chose to die. I met a man one day who beat his 7 year old so badly that she died. He tried to hang himself. Depression? No; it was a logical response. He did not succeed, and I was sad for him and the taxpayers who were now going to have to fund a trial. Sometimes suicide is a logical response to a situation.

As long as I'm not leaving you with bills and a cat to care for, suicide seems like a choice I should be able to make without nasty judgements. I've often taken a look at the world around me and thought, "dead baby seals, polio, famine and widespread indifference, this place sucks. One less person with a carbon footprint would be a good thing." Why don't I commit suicide? Because I just got a new car, and I am on my way to the beach. I'm still having fun, and I'm just too selfish.


Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Thank you, Isis. I totally agree. May I quote from your comment in a future post?

Isis said...