May 21, 2017 by Cláudia
I have talked about depression and anxiety multiple times on this blog and I do it even more often in real life. It has been a part of my life for around 10 years now and I’ve only really started recovering about 2 years ago. So it’s obviously a big part of me: it was around in several crucial moments of my growth and it is still very much present in the moment even if not in its most severe form.
Therefore, I talk about it quite often and it’s something that comes naturally to me. I make jokes about it when I’m feeling lighter and I talk seriously about it when I’m feeling it more present. I don’t have an apologetic attitude to it anymore. It was obviously a very hard and painful experience but I know it was not my fault or choice. It got a lot better but it is such a big part of my life that I could never really forget about it.
Depression is not a tabu word and I’m not afraid to say it. If you meet me in real life, sooner or later it will come up and I’d say it’s usually sooner. I am not embarrassed by depression and I will never think I am weak if I admit I have it, quite the contrary.
Depression is a disease and anyone who’s struggled with it will know that sometimes people’s responses to it are quite inadequate and will further the feeling of isolation. People will assume they know what you are going through and dismiss how bad you actually feel or they will treat it like it is your choice and therefore your fault. I’ve had a lot of this and I know people mean well, all of this just comes from misunderstanding. But this is why we have to talk about it. We have to explain what happens to our brains and our personality.
What I have also noticed is that people sometimes will change the way they interact with me: they will either avoid me because my honesty made them feel uncomfortable or they will go out of their way to be extra careful to not hurt my feelings. So a lot of times I’ve wondered if bringing up mental illness is off-putting when I am meeting someone new. I wondered if I should pretend that it is not part of my life in the beginning of the relationship and then one day I can finally make a dramatic confession and finally be honest about it.
But I think that this attitude is perpetuating the stigma that depression is something that you should hide or try as hard to pretend you’re not struggling with. Hide tears. Hide pain. Suffering is something to be ashamed of. Something that devalues you. When it actually could never mean anything like that. It means you overcame the deepest pain. It means strength and resilience. It is a reason to be proud, hold your head high and say “I suffer from depression. It’s a disease. I am doing my best”.
When I talk about my depression, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, to feel uncomfortable or to feel sad. It is just such an important part of my life that it’s not possible for me to talk about myself and not mention it. It is connected to how my personality developed and to my growth. To know me means to also know how depression was like for me. How it affected my teenage years. Where it came from. My flawed coping mechanisms. The breakdown. Every little part of this journey led me to where I am today. So it is in a way something beautiful that should be shared.
Moreover, talking about mental illness is the only way to explain some behaviours that I may have in the future which otherwise would be incomprehensible. It is helpful if people in your life know why you may be isolating yourself or feeling extremely blue for apparently no reason.
Depression is not an ugly word. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is part of me and therefore I will not hide it or mask it. Talking honestly about feelings is the only way we’re going to truly connect with other human beings. Trying to hide the negative only increases the feeling of isolation and disconnection. So don’t be afraid to speak honestly about yourself and if mental illness is part of your past, don’t be afraid to speak honestly about it either.