One of the major concerns I had when I first decided to write about my depression was that someone was going to read it and label me as damaged goods. As someone who was something less than capable. As someone who could not be trusted. As someone who “needed help” to make it.
The world is full of stories of people who were told that they couldn’t do something, and how that offensive perception motivated them to prove their naysayers wrong. Unfortunately, none of those stories are mine. I have had a tendency to let criticism force me into a hole and make me doubt everything about myself. I have let many a critic destroy my self-confidence over the years because instead of choosing to prove them wrong, I merely accepted that they were right.
Recently, though, I experienced something for the first time that made me want to rise up. Someone (who shall remain nameless here) made mention of my “condition.” It wasn’t presented in a derogatory way, but the underlying implication was this: You have not been adequate because of your depression. It was also suggested that I “get some help with it,” which I already am, so this just added insult to injury. I did not feel shame at that moment; I felt white-hot, pure rage.
This is the danger and the double-standard people who choose to speak out about their depression face. On the one hand, they are heralded and applauded for their bravery. They receive encouragement and well wishes when they initially disclose this information. They are also branded, though. Their every flaw is suddenly put under a microscope. Things a “normal” person might say – “I’m having a really bad day today.” – become immediate red flags when uttered by a person who has been honest about their depression. It becomes a scarlet letter they wear.
Yes, there are certain aspects of life that are made more difficult by my “condition.” I tend to be hyper-emotional sometimes. I sometimes shun contact with other people. I am abnormally obsessed with thoughts about myself and my own condition. At times, I even have difficulty deciding on what color shirt to wear in the morning. My anxiety levels can spike to ridiculous levels. If living with depression were an easy task, it probably wouldn’t even have a name.
To bring someone’s “condition” up to their face, however, seems to be in incredibly poor taste to me. Unless it is accompanied by some sort of offer of assistance or encouragement, it is nothing more than a reminder to that person that they are what they always thought they were in their darkest and lowest moments – an inadequate creation. Society now preaches that those with depression should not fear coming forward with their struggles, but then it turns right around and makes an issue out of what they had been so afraid to share. There is no grace or dignity in that. No wonder people hide their afflictions for so long.
I want to be better than my “condition,” as I know everyone who struggles with depression does. There are scores of blogs online that delve into much messier and confessional descriptions of depression than this one. I am amazed by how freely some writers share their struggles. I have learned not to look down on them for their honesty, however, even if some of their writing comes dangerously close to online gripe sessions. I believe they can be successful, happy, well-adjusted people. They’re just having a tough time with things because of this demon they wrestle with daily.
When I took time off from writing this blog to study for the GRE test, I strongly considered not taking it up again. If this was going to be the stigma attached to me, I might as well just keep everything to myself. Somewhere along the line, though, I decided there were still some things worth saying. They may be just for me, but, if so, so be it. Even though I choose to speak out on this “condition,” I will not be defined by it. Shame on the person who thinks I am or will be.