Over the last few months, a number of my friends and family have had a rough time of it. Through situations in and out of their control, it is safe to say they are getting the very rough end of the “life” stick. In the end, they finally admit to themselves and others that they aren’t coping and they seek help.
Their admission that frankly they aren’t Superman or Wonder-woman and they just can’t cope with the crap life is dishing out, are usually said in hush tones of fear and shame. Their words carry an under-tone that they are failures and despite their best efforts, they are throwing in the mental towel.
But why does the fact that life is a bastard and they need little white pills of happiness, or a stranger to talk to, just to make it to the next bout, seen as a failure?
There are many out there who say, “well, when I was young, we didn’t have depression or medication. We had no 'Counsellors' either. Can’t see why you ‘young-un’s’ need to have it now”. A diatribe usually follows, on why the world was a much better place when Britain ruled the world and when we still had caning back in school. Frankly, this is bull-shit.
People were depressed ‘X-number’ of years ago. Heck, who wouldn’t be depressed whilst living in a hovel and throwing your night-soilings out of the bedroom window. Minimal wage for maximum work. Uncertainty about where the next meal was coming from. They didn’t call it, ‘The Black Death’ because people thought dying whilst coughing up your insides was a hoot. Let’s not even go into ‘The Dark Ages’, the Medieval (evil, get it?) and ‘The Depression’. If we are characterizing periods of time, these aren’t the most uplifting names to be using.
The fact was people were just as depressed then as they are now. There is no big shame in thinking you can’t cope, because essentially it makes you no different from ‘Herbet the hang-man’, two-hundred years ago. The only difference is that his depression probably ended with his pre-mature death at the age of thirty. These days, at the age of thirty, you have to console yourself with the fact that you probably have another fifty more years of this crap left. If you weren’t depressed before you were thirty, the thought you could live to eighty would probably do it.
So, in a show of openness let me admit this now. I have been on/off anti-depressants for the last eight years, or so. It all started when I suffered with Post-Natal Depression after having D. Why was I depressed? I nearly died giving birth, I was still physically unwell when I moved to a different country with a four-month old kid who even then was showing signs of Autism. I was stuck in a condo-apartment on my own in the middle of the wettest Vancouver winter on record with very few friends and no family. Yeah, I was dancing a flipping samba!
I was diagnosed with PND at about 10 months. It is usually picked up a lot earlier, but with the trans-Atlantic move, I had fallen down the mental health gap. The ‘blues’ I was feeling was put down to the fact I was about to move country, or, the fact I had just moved country. Give it a few weeks and I will be filling the tables of the comedy club in no time.
Throw in a family history and Seasonal Affective Disorder and I am the most up-beat depressive person I know.
I have been on my latest course of anti-depressants for the past eighteen months or so. D was having huge problems with school. I was having to battle the school board as well as well as organizing paper-work to fight our corner. Once that was settled, international move number four had come across us. I am just settling down after that move and then the British brick house we live in, broke me physically. With winter looming, I have no inclination to come off the medication just yet. Maybe once the Spring hits, I will think differently.
It is true, that you never know the depths someone feels during the low of depression unless you have been there yourself. If you haven’t suffered from clinical depression, then saying, “I know how you feel” are as hollow as “I know it’s tough to have a special needs kid”. If you ain’t been there, you frankly have no clue. This is what makes the first time you suffer depression so hard to see – especially in yourself.
When you first suffer from depression, you just pass off every dark thought in a ‘I will feel better tomorrow’ series of events – to the point where sitting on the shower-room floor sobbing, seems normal.
When you are given those magic little pills, you finally realize how much you had changed and you flatly refuse to be like that again. Hang the social stigma, I will pack myself off to the Doctor for those anti-depressants before the latest episode of Eastenders has finished.
This is the difference between now and a century ago. We have the resources available so we don’t have to feel like this. One-hundred years ago, if you had depression, you had two choices; you sucked it up or you committed suicide. To me neither of those options instills warm fuzzy feelings.
There is no shame in feeling depressed; birds do it, bee’s do it and I am sure educated fleas do it. There is also no shame in putting up your hand and saying, “my life sucks, give me a hand here’.
Just because your life is particularly crap at the moment doesn’t mean you are a failure. It is down to the fact we are all asking way too much of our lives and ourselves. According to the miasma of media out there, you are a failure if you aren’t a full-time parent, working seventy-hours a week at a multi-national investment firm, all the time ensuring your family eat home-made, organically produced, four-course meals, three times a day. At the same time, your kids need to gain straight A’s, have twenty-hours of extra-curricular activities a week and need to grin like a lunatic every time you see them. This is all without a Nanny, house-keeper or childminder. Seriously, just typing that, made me want to repeatedly hit my forehead on the keyboard.
I hate the fact that as a society we still see the issue of mental health as something we need to apologise for. That admitting you need chemical substances to help you through the day, or a regular meeting with someone who understands depression, is on the same demonic level as admitting you secretly ship weapons to anti-democratic states. How is standing up and saying, “Just at this moment, my life is crap and I would like another one please?” something to be ashamed of? Surely, having the balls to turn to your family and friends and saying you are having a tough time and need help, is something to be proud of: You have a problem and you are standing and facing it. You aren’t burying it under the carpet with the cookie crumbs.
So, let’s stop this shit. Who says you have to be fucking happy? And if you aren’t then, who says you have to stay bloody miserable?