Following my recent post on depression, “When we won’t talk about depression”, I wanted to write about some of the reasons why we won’t talk about depression, with a view to encouraging myself and everyone else to open up a little more or be a good listener to a friend in need.
So, here are so suggestion as to why we won’t talk about depression,
1. I didn’t know I was depressed
You weren’t sure whether you were depressed and it sounded like a rather dramatic and confident self-diagnosis. The line between miserable kill joy and person with a recognisable mental health condition was a thin line and you were unsure which side of the line you were standing on, which is good enough reason to stay mum. In addition to this many depressive are very successful at masking their symptoms, to themselves as well as the outside world. All smiles, with a very regular looking ‘get up and get on’ attitude to life, it’s perfectly possible to live for years as if there is very little wrong at all. When all the voices around you are urging you to cheer up, snap out of it and find something to keep your mind off yourself, it isn’t always easy to call out depression for what it is. I was significantly helped by a pastor’s wife friend who listened to my story and suggested I could be depressed and encouraged me to see the doctor. This is how I found out I had depression and realised I’d probably suffered with it on and off since my mid teens.
2. I’m too ashamed
Shame is a destructive emotion that gets down into the soul. It interferes with our sense of self and our will to change. Shame imposes upon us an ideal person we should be and at the same time tells us that we can never be that person. Shame reminds us over and over again, I am not the strong and beautiful person I thought I was and sets us up for the most dramatic fail. There is undoubtedly a good amount of shame surrounding our individual and societal perceptions of mental health. It takes a brave soul to speak up above that. But shame dies the minute we share our story with a person who listens to us properly without judging. It is hard to talk to someone about your worst fears and vulnerabilities, but with the right person you realise you are just taking to another individual with fears and vulnerabilities of their own. Talking openly and honestly is a great equaliser. We instantly know we are not alone and the weight of negative judgements and condemnations fade as we find the better things about ourselves and others mirrored in the soul of another human being.
3. I’m too depressed to talk about it
Clearly this one is a vicious circle for anyone caught in it, but it is true that the more depressed an individual becomes the more they shut down their communications and responses to the outside world. There was a point where I was able to name and identify the complete inability to receive comfort as a chief characteristic of my own peculiar brand of depression. My inability to receive comfort extended to my very supportive husband, my children, my closest friends and even God. A miserable place to be. Talking seemed pointless when I already knew there was nothing anyone could say to make me feel better. Sometimes I avoided conversation to protect myself from the disappointment I felt when a friend failed to give me hope. Sometimes I wanted to protect my friend from the disappointment they would feel when I rejected their loving care and well meant advice.
4. The people I most want to talk to are the people who most need me strong
“Not you! You’re always so strong!” How many times have newly confessing depressives met with this response as they try to tell their friends and family about their problems? This is why so many individuals choose not to put their nearest and dearest through the trauma and suffer the depression alone. But maybe part of growing up is giving others the opportunity to help and support us through our troubles, rather than forever clinging onto an identity that rests in our roles as providers, problems solvers or authority figures. After all we are not behove to live out our lives according to the images others have made for us, especially when those images no longer fit well and make us ill. On the other side of more realistic images of ourselves are stronger more authentic relationships that are probably worth the struggles it takes to get there. We all need to recognise and appreciate that no one can be strong all the time and showing some weakness and human failure is, in itself, a strength.
So, four excellent reasons for keeping your pain a secret, all demonstrating that we are all completely justified in our reluctance to share the pain of depression. Sharing the heart-ache and making oneself vulnerable is a risky business that demands the types of courage we tend to lack when we are depressed. But finding someone to talk to about your situation and feelings could be the best thing you ever did soI hope you find a very human soul to share your story with and a little bit of bravery as a result of your reading here.
Let me know about your own stories of sharing mental health issues with others or your own views on what makes it so difficult for us to talk about depression. If you are suffering from depression remember that you should not hesitate to see your doctor and after that find a trusted friend to share your story with.
Finally I leave you with another story of hope and healing beyond postpartum depression and sincerely thanks to Jennifer Dukes Lee for sharing this online.