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“I just heard that Tina…has cancer…I mean, fuck off, right?! We all have cancer. I’ve got cancer pretty bad, but I get on with it, I get back to work.”

“You think you’d be able to stop vomiting for me and the kids!”

-Comedian Maria Bamford on how society treats depression

She is quite right here. I can only speak to anecdotal evidence, but many people do not take mental illness seriously and that’s troubling for a plethora of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that people with mental illness are lambasted for being weak, cowardly and otherwise to blame for having a disease.

All of that is also prevalent when discussing the extreme manifestation of that disease and other mental illnesses: suicide.

Three hundred and forty-nine soldiers across the four branches of the United States military killed themselves in 2012, according to this article. Were every single one of those three hundred and forty-nine soldiers weak, cowardly and “took the easy way out?” Did they simply need to get over it, snap out of it and pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps?

There were 38,364 suicides in the United States in 2010, according to the CDC. Were every single one of those 38,364 people weak, cowardly, and “took the easy way out?” Did they simply need to get over it, snap out of it and pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps? Were they just using mental illness as a “crutch” to hide their laziness or unwillingness to seek help?

If you answer yes to any of those questions or even think that while it may not be “all,” but a “majority of them,” then you’re contributing to not only the continued stigma around mental illness, suicide and seeking help (which means, helping with prevention), but you’re standing in the way of human progress and empathy.

A perfect analogy and way of understanding depression was presented by this site:

“And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something — it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.”

Depression

Courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression

6 thoughts on “People misunderstand depression and mental illness in general

  1. In my opinion, people who decide to commit suicide are actually doing it out of selfish reasoning. They feel pressure and responsibility placed on them (putting themselves on a pedestal). They do not feel life has the capability to provide them with the answers; hence they believe they are immortal or godlike. They then rationalize that the only answer to justify their existence is death.

    Now this sounds twisted and I already see you shaking your head. So instead of viewing what I’ve said with your original set of beliefs, try to see it from a blank slate.

    Suicide, to me, is basically someone giving up on life dismissing any possible help. They basically advocate that life is worthless.

    Let’s define what suicide really is.

    People commit little suicides all throughout their lives. That’s another way of growing (something is broken down then reborn with more strength).
    Someone who changes a habit or creates a new one must go through initial anguish.
    The brain does not like changing all too much because of the risk involved.
    So when someone decides to quit smoking, they must kill off an attachment of who they are; technically a suicide.

    With that said, someone who wants to commit suicide can be argued as extremely powerful or extremely weak.

    Someone who quits a bad habit = powerful

    Someone who kills themselves thinking they have been victimized = weak

    Since mediocrity is the norm, most people who physically kill themselves are weak. They have let a force outside of them convince and overpower their own judgement. They are not in control and therefore are weak.

    p.s. you should change the typing caret to blinking. Make little edits makes me want to kill myself 😉

    • Appreciate the feedback.

      With respect to your comments, it’s pretty simple to me. I fail to see how a disease is an “outside force.” And that they “let it control them.”

      • A disease is not an outside force, but majority people believe that it is so they feel special.

        Someone simply claiming they have a disease places them in a victim role (not everyone, but most). They do this to cease any responsibility so that their image is not tarnished.

        “It was the disease’s fault, not mine. I had no control of this.”
        “I’m sorry but I have this disease, so I can’t do those kind of things.”

        These are common things many say or think. Not saying it’s all bs, but most the times it is; it’s a shield to protect them.

        It takes responsibility off them, much like the “I’m too cool” gesture.

        This know-it-all frame stems from insecurity. It is a scarcity mindset.
        It’s easier to create a limiting belief, than to take the time to learn and fix.

        I’m not going to say people let diseases control them in the sense that they are aware that they can make a difference. Most do not have this awareness in my opinion.

        However, considering all the webbing layers of rationalizations, many do not have a choice other than to let the idea of having a disease control / disempower them.

        It’s as if they cannot control the fact that they are not in control. If that makes sense.

      • Actually, on the contrary, I would argue most do not claim they have a disease. Or at the least, they don’t contemplate it as such. Quite a number of people go largely undiagnosed.

        And don’t get me wrong. I’m not absolving people with mental illnesses of everything. As the old adage goes, “The first step is admitting there’s a problem.” So, regardless of anything, the first step for someone afflicted with depression is to want to seek help; it’s a tough road though that requires family support and what have you. It’s not a road that can be traveled alone. And you’re absolutely correct. Most do not have this awareness, but why is that? I think it goes back to the stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as just generally, science isn’t fully there yet on mental illnesses.

  2. I personally think that depression affects us all at one point in our lives. Many are afraid to admit it, for the simple reason they will look as weak by their peers /friends. They hide their sadness and buried their pain with a smile. Afraid to be judge, or worse, call you names such as “wacko” “crazy” and many mores I’ve heard around me. I know depression. I’ve been there. I know how it feels. No one wants to be down, depressed. It’s lonely, sad and NO I don’t want to be a victim. I fight it. But sometimes the sadness inside, like a dark passenger takes over. Sometimes people get tired of the comments we hear. I, for instance. I hear my sisters calling me Wacko!!! As a joke. It hurts me, not sure if they know it and it’s why I keep my distance. Sometimes we can help ourselves, but sometimes depression just takes over. Please excuse my long comment, but I’m just speaking from experience. I think those people that have taken their lives were hurting badly. The pain was to much to handle. Yes, a selfish act, cause we must think of the people we leave behind. But I know that every person who has dealt with depression has thought about suicide or maybe not? But wondered about it. I consider myself a strong woman. I’ve had my years of sadness and millions of reasons to want to die, but I live for my kids and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt them, even if it means fight like a soldier with this disease for life. God bless us all.💜

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