You know, it isn’t catching….

In times of old, woman who had a child out of wedlock were often locked up in an asylum; boys with epilepsy were thought to be possessed, as were poor souls who heard voices. They were obviously in league with the devil himself. Ah, olden times: thank God it’s different now, eh?

Except, it isn’t. Society still likes to pretend that mental illness doesn’t exist and sufferers are often forced to keep their illness to themselves less they be shunned by friends or victimised in work until they are forced to resign. But by keeping quiet we are colluding in the misinformed belief that mental illness is something to be frightened of. That’s why I have decided to come out of my closet and admit to anyone who cares that I have suffered from depression for many, many years.

Yes, if you suffer from depression or schizophrenia it can be very frightening for the sufferer, and for those who love them. But being around a person with mental illness doesn’t mean that you will catch the crazies.

I have been on and off a variety of meds for 16 or 17 years and had a year of psychotherapy. I’m mostly OK now, although I am back to relying on medication to get through the days without sitting in the corner crying. There’s nothing wrong with my life: I’m not abused or living in a damp-infested flat. My life is good; really, really good. I just happen to have a chemical imbalance in my brain that can make it difficult to be full of beans at times. Every day I make the conscious choice to be happy and work at it, choosing to see the beauty and wonder in life. And, thanks to the meds, that is mostly how my days are. I am one of the lucky ones and thankful for it.

Choosing to be as open about my mental illness as others are about diabetes, hypertension and gallstones is a personal choice. I don’t expect others to confess. In fact, it’s nobody’s business. I am just angry that we can all talk about hysterectomies and arthritis and get sympathy and understanding while if we mention any malfunction in the organ between our ears, too many people take a step back and talk about the weather.

Yes, it’s pissing down and I have depression. Deal with it.

The social media thingamybobs:

47 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    Sep 2, 2012

    Nettie – I am so happy for you that you had the courage to share a little of what it’s like to deal with depression. You’re quite right that it’s far too poorly-understood and because of that, the open discussion that could be so helpful so often doesn’t happen. If it helps at all, I look at it this way. Your depression makes you no more odd or “shunnable” than my ginger hair makes me. I mean, please, people! What a powerful post to help people understand.

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      Ha! You are right, prejudice is everywhere and it’s only by talking that we can hope to begin to help people understand.
      Thank you, Margot x

  2. lisashambrook
    Sep 2, 2012

    Oh, I understand so well!
    I got diagnosed with depression at 18, then after struggling through my twenties I got diagnosed with clinical depression. It’s been on and off anti-depressants since. Life gets really good then for no reason it all drops again.
    My family has a strong history of Bi-polar (my sister, brother and uncle) and depression.
    It’s a strain at times for hubby, he doesn’t understand some of the inclinations I get… I really wish it was more acceptable, I’ve found great support networks and surprisingly after mentioning it on FB once I got several emails from old friends and new friends with depression that I didn’t know about, showing that it’s incredibly common!
    Resources (or lack of) are what annoys me most. I can get anti-depressants at the click of my fingers from my GP, but counselling…such a huge waiting list…and depression is the kind of beast where you reply, “It’s okay, I won’t go on the list as there are more needful people out there than me.”
    I’m after advice on preventing panic attacks, but GP just has no info at all..so it’s down to online searching and friends advice where you can get it!
    Wishing you sunshine Nettie, in a downpour of a Summer!

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      You have hit the nail on the head there, Lisa. “for no reason”. Life can be going along great then one day you wake up and it’s as if someone has put a car on your chest during the night. Everything is heavy and takes so much effort. I used to have panic attacks, but they stopped of their own accord. I am very lucky.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment x

    • missmarple69
      Sep 4, 2012

      I also suffer with Clinical Depression and have done for many years and like yourself I have highs and lows.. The rest of the times I’m middling the road of Life, managing the best I can.. What helped me most after all the many Therapies I’d gone through, was CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.. It treats your Brain like a computer and helps rewire your responses to any given situation in a healthier and productive way.. Maybe you could ask your Doctor about it, hope this helps. My very Best Wishes.. Dee xx

      • Annette
        Sep 4, 2012

        Thank you so much for sharing your story, Dee. I really am fine now. The year of psychotherapy did the trick for me. I use CBT daily to challenge my perceptions and it works. But sometimes, if there is no external cause for the depression, CBT can’t help. Talking therapy sorted out the past and I’m at peace with that now. I think I am just predisposed to get it from time to time. Believe it or not, I am the eternal optimist of the family. I’ve always been a glass-half-full person and I never see a situation as hopeless.
        Sometimes I think it’s like catching a cold – for me, anyway. I just have to wait for it to get better. But it always does. Eventually.
        There was a time at the beginning when I was suicidal. Not now. And I don’t think I will be again.
        I hope you find your peace. Thank you again xxx

      • lisashambrook
        Sep 17, 2012

        You’re right Dee, CBT is definitely up there to ask Dr about, my problem is as soon as he mentions waiting list, I think I’ll be better before I reach the top of the list, so I don’t use it…I need to get on that list and wait!

  3. cameronlawton
    Sep 3, 2012

    Thanks for that Nettie. As you and some of our mutual friends know, I’m Bipolar so I know what the down periods are like and I can only say that for someone who suffers from pure depression (not manic depression) it must be hell. I at least (despite my meds) have the ultra highs and energy rushes. Without that, with the world looking like a black and white photo of World War 1 all the time, with birdsong not even registering, with all the fun sucked out of life …. it must be pure hell and just getting out of bed in the morning must take courage.

    No, people don’t understand. No we don’t always want to tell them. But you have and I’m so proud to know you.

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      Uni-polar depression – if that even a term? – does have it’s joys too, Cameron. On the days when you wake up and your heart doesn’t fill with dread for the pointless day ahead, that’s a high in itself.
      Thank you for commenting, toots x

  4. dandeliongirl01
    Sep 3, 2012

    The more people you talk to about depression the more you find also suffer from it.

  5. Glynis Smy
    Sep 3, 2012

    Nettie, I am nine years med free, and now where you are coming from. I have changed my lifestyle and diet to stay in control. It is hard to fight the dark days, but good to know that others are suffering the same, and the meds work when required. Hugs. x

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      Glynis, you are right: diet and lifestyle definitely contribute, but when the brain chemistry goes haywire, sometimes that isn’t enough. Medication doesn’t work for everyone and I’d never say, ‘take a pill and you’ll be all better’ but sometimes, for some people, they are a godsend. So glad you are well now and thank you for commenting x

  6. Viv
    Sep 3, 2012

    Thank you for this.
    The more I see, the more I realise the prejudice is rampant. I heard my sister-in-law refer to people with mental health issues as nutters and other epithets a few nights ago. I said nothing at the time, since there had been so many issues cropping up where it was clear that while we care for each other, there’s little understanding between us of what makes the other tick.
    I’m open and long have been about my struggles but some days, I think, why do i bother?
    You can tell I’m in a low phase by that last comment.
    Oh well, pastures new from Friday, plus a new house to devastate with my lack of housewifely wiles!

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      It’s hard when friends and family don’t understand. My family know when I am bad because I get quiet and say very little. I tend to retreat rather than talk and, in truth, if you don’t ‘know’ me, you’d never ever guess I was depressed. Today is a good day for me, for a lot of reasons. Iwish a good day for you too, Viv. Thank you for commenting.x

  7. jackieat60
    Sep 3, 2012

    Depression is another of the ‘invisible’ illnesses. if you have a stookie on your leg, people understand exactly what it is and can therefor cope. If it cant be seen, if the name is not familiar, if they do not understand, they shy away. Those of us with any kind of ‘invisible’ health issue are used to this and the reaction of others, ignore it – become very condescending – or brush it aside with comments about how they suffered similar. When people talk about their issues, perhaps those who do care, will listen and gain a batteer understanding of what others go through, and that can only be good.

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      Spoonies of the world unite! Thank you for taking the time to comment, Jackie xx

  8. Very Tessa Tangent
    Sep 3, 2012

    Great article and, no, it isn’t catching! I, too, have written openly about my depression (bipolar) and the disparity in employers’ and other authorities’ attitudes towards those with a mental illness.

    There are very few physical illnesses that would cause one to lose one’s job, or be discriminated about in the same way as mental health illnesses. However, there is one physical problem (apart from STDs and arse surgery) that appears at least *unpopular*.

    I recently wrote about bunion surgery and noticed the reluctance, not only initially of myself (internalised bunionphobia? Haha) to talk about it but the lala-lala not-wanting-to-hear attitude of others. Fair enough. It’s probably mainly interesting to those who have been or are going through it and, from those people and a few friends, there’s been a quality-not-quantity response.

    But one thing was obvious to me. My last employers’ attitude to bunion surgery would have been vastly different to the discriminating attitude they displayed when I reluctantly disclosed I was bipolar. Someone off for months with a bad knee was treated more sympathetically than any employee with a mental illness. Even when they took little or no time off for it.

    And, disgustingly, this was under the employ of a local authority. The very employers who give a thorough board interview for job applicants, one of the chief multiple-layered questions and concern being that the applicant has excellent knowledge about Equal Opportunities. Yes, the very equal opportunities that they blithely ignore.

    I never took them to tribunal but I was told I could and should. I was moving house and the thought of more stress (that could cause me to go high or depressed) was all too much.

    It’s a cliche but you couldn’t make it up, could you? The more of us who write openly about mental health, the better. Thanks so much, Nettie.

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      Yes, there are acceptable diseases and ailments and those that make people laugh nervously and take a step back. I hope your bunions are well now and you can tell me about the boil on your bum any time ~;0)
      Thank you for taking the time to comment x

  9. ajgracesmith
    Sep 3, 2012

    Thank you for writing this. Clinical depression is so easily misunderstood, misperceived. I’ve lived with it for years, then was recently diagnosed as being ‘somewhere’ on the bipolar scale, but nothing can be done for me unless I need hospitalisation – which I don’t, thank goodness – and in the meantime I’m essentially being left to get on with it with the meds. I’ve cried every day for the last three months. It’s utterly grim, and yet in order to function I have to try to pretend that it’s all fine really, just so others can cope with me/it. And really, what hurts more than the mind? Physical pain can be treated, and for the most part overcome (I’m not for one minute suggesting that all physical pain is finite). But when being alive hurts to the point where you feel you have to hide from everyone and everything… I think what people fear about it is that it cannot be measured, quantified, counted. It’s too big to be comprehended, rather like space.

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      Ah, but physical pain can’t always be treated. I have fibromyalgia and can’t remember the last time I had a pain free day, regardless of what meds I take. I’d be as well taking smarties. Like Jackie said, the invisible illnesses are the hardest to have accepted. Have you tried CBT? There are a few really good books out there which help a lot. I’ve also found the teaching of Buddhism a great help. I truly hope you find some peace. Thank you so much for sharing your story. xxx

  10. ajgracesmith
    Sep 3, 2012

    As I said, I’m not for one minute suggesting that all physical is finite. CBT works to a point, but isn’t for everyone. And I haven’t the patience (yet!) for Buddhism, although I have tried, and will probably try again. Smarties, on the other hand, and especially the orange ones, are rather cheering. x

  11. ajgracesmith
    Sep 3, 2012

    As I said, I’m not for one minute suggesting that all physical is finite. CBT works to a point, but isn’t for everyone. And I haven’t the patience (yet!) for Buddhism, although I have tried, and will probably try again. Smarties, on the other hand, and especially the orange ones, are rather cheering. x

  12. Jane Travers
    Sep 3, 2012

    I’m Spartacus!

    By which I mean, hear hear. I too have suffered from depression at various stages in my life. I’m no longer reticent about talking about it, because I think we all have to take ownership of it. One day I’d love to be able to say “I’m having a bout of depression” and have people sympathise as though I have the flu or any other incredibly common ailment.

    Well done, Nettie 🙂

    • Annette
      Sep 3, 2012

      Thank you, darling. So would I so maybe if we keep on talking about it, one day people might actually listen?
      xx

  13. missmarple69
    Sep 4, 2012

    Thanks so much for Talking about, (Depression) Your so right its still very much a Taboo subject, all we mainly hear about the Condition is, all the hullabaloo about Antidepressants and possible serious side effects… There are many different kinds of Therapies, and I seem to have been on most of them, not to much avail, sadly.. However I must mention CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, plus a type of Hypnosis, which has been very helpful.. Not a cure, as there is none at present, its more about Life Management, both those Therapies have made a significant change for me, and I’m very thankful.. These type are the best in my Personal Opinion, and ought to be the first suggested for people… Dee

  14. keatsbabe
    Sep 4, 2012

    Lovely to see this on here Nettie. It is so important to discuss depression and anxiety openly; when we do we realise how many of us there are ‘out there’. Did you know the book I have been compiling and editing – Dandelions and Bad Hair days – is raising money for SANE? Marjorie Wallace has written a Foreword for it which is marvellous. Take care . Suzie x

    • Annette
      Sep 4, 2012

      I did not know that – very interesting, Suzie. I have a DM heading your way xxx

  15. keatsbabe
    Sep 4, 2012

    Lovely to see this on here Nettie. It is so important to discuss depression and anxiety openly; when we do we realise how many of us there are ‘out there’. Did you know the book I have been compiling and editing – Dandelions and Bad Hair days – is raising money for SANE? Marjorie Wallace has written a Foreword for it which is marvellous. Take care . Suzie x

  16. Scottish Mum
    Sep 7, 2012

    One of my boys suffers terribly with brain problems as a result of his birth mum, and spends his life in a permanent state of anxiety and swinging between mania and depression. It takes a lot to share it publicly, but sometimes it’s a sigh of relief once the decision is made to talk about it.

    I’ve lost friends by talking about how one persons anxiety or depression can affect a whole family but I do think that if they’re as shallow as walk away because life gets a little tough, then they weren’t really friends in the first place.

  17. Scottish Mum
    Sep 7, 2012

    One of my boys suffers terribly with brain problems as a result of his birth mum, and spends his life in a permanent state of anxiety and swinging between mania and depression. It takes a lot to share it publicly, but sometimes it’s a sigh of relief once the decision is made to talk about it.

    I’ve lost friends by talking about how one persons anxiety or depression can affect a whole family but I do think that if they’re as shallow as walk away because life gets a little tough, then they weren’t really friends in the first place.

  18. Just a note to add that I have bi-polar disorder. I generally experience the lows more than the highs, but I have felt what it’s like to have seeming total self-confidence and felt what it’s like to not be able to get out of bed.

    Although my friends know all about this, it’s something I will never write about in my blog since it conflicts with the blog concept of “all humor/all the time.” Thank you for having the honesty to come forward with it.

    • Annette
      Sep 14, 2012

      Thank you so much for being brave enough to share that with us here. I hope you are having a good week.
      Nxxx

  19. trophydaughter
    Sep 23, 2012

    Great post! Stigma is also rampant here in the States. Love your statement that “By keeping quiet we are colluding in the misinformed belief that mental illness is something to be frightened of.” So totally agree with that. My sister has bipolar disorder and sometimes I’m even sensitive about talking about that. Partly out of a desire to protect her privacy but partly, and I’m ashamed to admit this, because of how it changes the way some people look at me. Its amazing though that the more I talk about it, the more people share with me about their own illness or that of family. People I’ve known for decades and had absolutely no idea. Speaking up is key to debunking the stereotypes. You go, girl!

    • Annette
      Sep 23, 2012

      Thank you so much, Terri. It’s taken me a long while to be public about it but I’m glad I’m ‘out’ and hopefully helping others.
      Nx

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