We will be touching on a highly sensitive topic today, and that is depression. The decision to discuss this topic came about when a few of us health bloggers were discussing about various topics, and the head writer of this blog, being a counselling student, decided that this blog would be a good platform to discuss it.
Firstly, it is true that there is a stigma associated with depression – no doubt about that. In some cultures such as those in Asia, the stigma is great, and people with depression are viewed as mentally insane. In the west, it might or might not be more subtle, but it still has the stigma of character weakness. Let us bust those myths today.
Firstly, depression is an illness, a mental one, and needs to be acknowledged as such. It is not a reason to be ashamed no matter what society says. The reason so many people fail to seek help for their depression is that they are embarrassed about it. Unfortunately, this is one of the feelings associated with depression anyway and makes the illness difficult to acknowledge. It’s like a double-edged sword.
If you are constantly feeling particularly low, well-meaning friends, especially in the western world, might tell you to “snap out of it”, or they might even start to get irritated by your mood. Your depression will feed off this negativity and you start to wonder why you can’t just “snap out of it”. You then start to feel that there’s something wrong with you because it should be so easy and it’s just “not right” that you feel so bad all the time.
The first step to take is to own it and acknowledge it. There is a specific criterion to diagnosing depression and it is chronic severe sadness over a few weeks. You have a medical condition and you deserve treatment in the same way as any other patient. Think about it this way – if you were speaking to someone dying of AIDs, will you tell them to “snap out of it” and ask them “why don’t you just get rid of your AIDs?” See my point?
How do you differentiate depression and sadness? As mentioned before, it is the time factor and the severity. Honestly, everyone is sad at some point in their lives, which is normal. But depression is more than that. It is a feeling that is accompanied by a sense of helplessness. Over time, a depressed person might even stop trying.
When this happens, life gets even worse because people who don’t understand this will try and avoid you. Then this loop continues since it will make you feel worse. So what should you do when you are trapped in this cycle? Ideally, you should try to seek external help to treat the problem in the same way as you would if you had a long-lasting cold. See a doctor for a start.
What will happen after that is that the doctor, if he or she is reasonable, will refer you for counselling. There is a stigma but don’t feel embarrassed – you are going down the track of curing your issue, and that is a good thing! You wouldn’t want to let this fester because if you don’t take action, things have a tendency to get worse, not better.
The most important thing to note is that you must feel comfortable with your counsellor. If possible, get one who has the right qualifications and accreditation. Do not feel embarrassed to ask for a change of counsellor. In fact, sometimes it is necessary, and that’s okay. That’s human nature. In everyday life you will naturally find that you get on with some people and clash with others. You cannot afford to have a personality clash with your counsellor.
There is also another side to it – you must be sure that it is a personality clash and not just that you don’t agree with what they are saying. It’s the same with a teacher – you might not like the teacher, but his or her knowledge might be good. A general rule is to go with your instincts. If you like the person and seem to get on then stick with it. Chances are that they might just have touched on the root cause of your issue.
In some cases, acknowledging depression may be difficult because you have lived with it so long that you don’t know whether it is depression or not. If you have grown up with depression it is possible not to realise that you are actually depressed because you have no concept of how normal people should feel. This is most unfortunate, but sometimes it is a reality.
Here are some things chronically depressed people may feel: You may feel angry all the time or have a desire to scream. You may feel anxious, have trouble sleeping or the contrary, i.e. sleep too much. You may think that your family would be better off without you and actually believe that to be true. Escaping one’s problems by leaving home or committing suicide is common.
If you are feeling any or all of the above then you need to consider talking to someone. In Australia there are helplines like Lifeline and Beyond Blue. In other western countries there are helplines too. Speaking with someone is always much better than not speaking with anyone. Even if it is just a friend or family member to start with, they may be able to advise you and encourage you to seek professional help.
Once you have acknowledged that you have depression please remember that it is a medical condition and can be cured. You don’t have to feel this way forever. Nobody should think of you the way you think they do. If they do, it is a poor reflection on them and not you, and you can consider cutting that tie.
Mental Health is still an evolving thing, but it has made leaps and bounds in the western world. In fact, since the world in general is getting more and more stressful, such things will only increase, and so the importance of learning how to overcome it becomes more crucial. Seek and accept help and you will find that there is a different way of seeing life. Let this be the generation that destroys the stigma!
Resources for helping overcome your depression:
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