“Tell them it’s okay to talk about the cancer”, Debra Winger shouts to her best friend, Patsy Clark, in the beloved classic film, Terms of Endearment. I want to scream this from the rooftops in regards to depression, an often debilitating illness that literally had nothing heard above a whisper in the public sphere in years past. It was not until recently in the 21st century that subject of depression has been given a larger audience, pharmaceutical companies have expended enormous resources in advertising so that the public will come to see depression as a medical illness, and some sufferers are slowly shrugging off the stigma of depression or feeling shame for their negative feelings. Yet, we still have not come far enough as Dr. Jonathan Rottenberg, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida, discloses in a 2009 Charting the Depths blog entry entitled, The Continuing Stigma of Depression . Despite the support of family, friends and patient advocacy groups, many depression patients still believe that their jobs and social lives will be negatively affected should they admit that they have a mental illness. Dr. Rottenberg believes that instead of viewing depression as a weakness in character, the public should be taught to understand the unique strengths that are required [of sufferers] to endure depression. I believe that this is a more than effective approach when broaching the subject of depression and painting an exact picture of those who are afflicted with this illness for better understanding and respect towards them.
Let me help you better envision this image. Physically, depressed people may seem fatigued, restless and often helpless, but inside, they are in a constant frenzied battle with the negative energies that are working to destroy their spirit and will to live a normal, happy life. You cannot imagine how much willpower it takes to resist the dark urges that surface in many cases – the urges that trick the mind into believing that the only way to end the pain is to end the life. To resist this urge continually takes an unfathomable amount of strength and courage. And for many, medication and/or therapy is the only answer to reduce these urges and survive severe depression. Yet, whether the depression is mild or severe, endurance and a high threshold for pain plays a large factor in a patient’s survival and recovery; or to put it more simply, to survive depression, one must continue to endure by any means necessary.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was annoyed with therapy in my youth, but honestly, I was simply embarrassed and ashamed, so I lied to my therapist to convince myself and him that my negative feelings were only fleeting or situational and not persistent. I thought I could move pass the moment by denying it completely, but I was wrong. The hopelessness returned full force in adulthood when I was once again consumed with the stresses of everyday living. Even though I have chosen to begin this blog as my own personal therapy for now, I do understand that talk therapy or medication are options that I may need to consider in the long run along with my daily catharsis. But for now, I want to be a rising voice of strength among those that are living with and struggling to survive depression. Maybe I am not ready to shout just yet from the rooftops, but as the days grow longer and the strife continues, so does my determination. I resolve to speak for the silent, to move beyond shame and to laugh in the face of ignorance. And despite my pain, I refuse to break. I will be an army of one.