to preface this post i should tell you (those of you who don't already know) that my mother and i both have chronic depression
. we're both receiving treatment and we're both fine now (well, you know, except for the normal reactions to life's ups and downs and stresses and so on) i was lucky enough to be diagnosed at a pretty early age (they actually look for it when you're depressed and have a mother with chronic depression), my mum was not so lucky and went through a roller-coaster of emotional and prescription hell before she finally was diagnosed in her 40s. end of preface.
my mum is here from france, it's wonderful, it's so nice to have her here, to be able to talk and laugh and cook and laugh and visit and laugh and hang out and laugh (my mum and i laugh a lot, anyone who knows us both will attest). although sometimes we talk about inane things, sometimes we talk about serious things too. it's not uncommon for us to talk about depression. we provide a bit of a check for each other i think, making sure that the other doesn't slip back into a depression (the drugs are by no means fool-proof).
one of our conversations of late has been about the absolute power of depression. or perhaps it is the feeling of absolute powerlessness that it evokes. and not just for the sufferer, although they of course feel it most acutely, but also for those around them, the people that love them and want desperately to wave a magic wand and make everything better. damnit, why hasn't someone invented a magic wand yet?!?!?! we're a technologically advanced society, isn't it about time?
we talked about how we don't know a single person who has gone to the doctor on their own because of depression. that is to say, everyone we know who has been clinically (not to be confused with chronically) depressed, who has been diagnosed by a doctor as clinically depressed, had to be dragged to said doctor. i mean this in a very literal sense too, i don't mean people were nagged enough that they finally capitulated and went to the doctor to explain what was happening, i mean physically taken to the doctor. when i was diagnosed it was my mum who made the appointment, drove to guelph from oakville to physically take me there so that she could be sure i went. she even talked to the doctor ahead of time and explained what she had been observing because she didn't trust that i had the language to explain what was happening to me. when john was diagnosed it was the same thing, only it was me making the appointment and driving him to the doctor. for my mum, for my mum it was a co-worker. but we all have stories of people making appointments for us and physically taking us there. and since then, since i started talking about it, i've heard similar stories repeated over and over again.
it's hard to explain the phenomenon to someone who has never been depressed. it's hard to explain the fact that you barely have the will to get yourself to the bathroom to pee, let alone pick up the phone, make and appointment, go to the appointment, and then tell your doctor something that makes you feel like you've somehow admitted defeat, that somehow it makes you worthless, not a capable person and generally just a bad person. of course none of that is true, but depression has made you it's bitch. it's calling the shots now. the rational bits of your brain have been locked in the dungeon and depression has bullied it's way in, sitting on the throne, ruling with a seemingly inescapable iron fist.
and here's the truth. those feelings, that feeling of failure for not being able to 'snap out of it', they're fed by societial opinions. mental illness is somehow not a real illness. i know he's a nutjob, but look at people like tom cruise. he's telling the world that depression isn't real. he's telling the world that *i* am weak. and sure, people are shocked, people are in an uproar, but you know what? i think he's expressing the opinions of more than a few people out there.
i hate it when people talk about depression being over-diagnosed. i'm sure it is, i'm not disputing that, but as soon as someone says that i feel like they're saying that my disease isn't real. every time someone trots out the over-diagnosed over-medicated thing i feel like they're saying that i am just being silly, just being weak, that it's all in my head.
i remember talking to a friend about this once. he said to me 'i don't see the difference between taking meds for depression and being an alcoholic'. he said this with full knowledge that i had an alcoholic father and was taking meds for depression (no, really, he was a friend, just sometimes didn't think things through very well). i took a long look at him, swallowed my horror and my anger and calmly said "sean, the difference is that an alcoholic drinks to escape the real world, a person who is depressed takes anti-depressants to re-join the real world" honestly, i have no memory of what his response was.
there is such a misconception about anti-depressants and what they do. the number of people who seem to think they're uppers of some kind astounds me. anti-depressants do not, i repeat, DO NOT suddenly make you happy. you still have all the same shit to deal with, it doesn't make it go away, it just makes you able to do thing like say, get out of bed, make a meal, go to work, read a book, think. it basically allows you do do all the things we take for granted. it also allows you to do things like do more effective work in therapy so that you can avoid future episodes (because anyone who thinks that depression is STRICTLY a chemical imbalance that happens, i don't know, because of a shift in the weather or something, anyone who thinks that is fooling themselves and setting themselves up for future depressive episodes). it isn't a magic bullet, the magic wand to solve everything hasn't been invented yet, remember (could someone get on that please?!?)
i don't know where i'm going with this. i do know that i have a dear friend who i love so very much that words cannot express my love for them, and depression is making them it's bitch right now, so please, please, please, would ya hurry up with the invention of that magic wand...