People should be able to have Depression without adding the fear of being labeled.
Depression creates unhelpful thinking patterns that feed into our culture’s stigma about mental health issues. Feeling the need to be guarded about our condition only gives depression a stronger grip. I know, I have spent most of my life denying I have depression and hiding it from even myself.
A person should be able to talk to a therapist without fear that they will “say the wrong thing” and then be automatically committed. People who seek help do not always get the best advice. As children, we asked our playmates where babies came from. Storks were the standard answer. People seeking help with mental health issues often start with “stork” stories instead of the true facts.
Seeking help for a mental health issue is incredibly difficult. For me, it was only when the remaining options were even more frightening, that I sought professional help for my depression. Yet, if I had a complaint of back pain, I would be able to mention that to family or friends without fear that I would be judged or committed. They would relate their success stories with treatment or let me know what to avoid. No big deal.
My experience is that the stigma of mental health issues keeps many from seeking help. Despite societies efforts to change the culture, I felt the best course of action for me was to hide my depression. I was so successful, at least in my mind, at hiding it that I did not even allow myself to name it. As each down cycle would begin, I was focused solely on finding a way out without letting anyone see.
Speaking out now, saying “I have depression, depression doesn’t have me,” is not without risk. I know there is support for my position, but there will be misunderstandings, too. As with my decision to seek professional help with depression, I am driven only because the alternatives are much more frightening.
Continuing to do the same thing, expecting different results finally became undefendable to me. It supported my depression, giving me false hope that this time it would be different, that this time doing the same thing would create a different result. Boy, you think depression is your friend, and then it pushes you up against the same wall. It has you alone, vulnerable and stuck in all or nothing thinking that eventually reduces your options to zero.
As I begin to face my depression with professional support, I am past whether anyone is labeling me. Ok, I still think about it a bit, but I am going forward anyway. Professionals are telling me they are proud of me for seeking treatment. My first thought is to minimalize this, but that is what my depression wants me to do. So, I accept their compliments as I move towards a better understanding of my depression and how I can loosen its grip.
What are your thoughts on how society views mental health issues? Your comments are encouraged.