Why are we afraid to talk about this?
Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 07:42AM
Jen
There's two sides to this question. What am I, the person with the brain cooties, afraid of and what are you - my friends, acquaintances and society in general afraid of?

I think I've always been afraid that people would treat me differently. That people would question or ascribe my choices and decisions to my "problem" and therefore see them as wrong/ba...d/not rational or frivolous. That people would be tentative, afraid of saying the 'wrong' thing to me, that people would back away. But people we don't know, nasty people, they say mean, cruel, wrong things to us ALL THE TIME regardless of whether they know us or not. Maybe, I just need to confront that fear and see it as an inevitable part of life - I'm sure people with other diseases feel the same way so what is it about depression that makes it so different? (I think I answer that farther down, actually).

But, here's the thing - I would say that 80% of the decisions I've made in the last 7 years have had their basis in physical pain. Then there's the slice of decision making we ALL do - based in fear, in love, in worry. Then there's the decisions made based in depression - maybe 5-10%. In fact, the one and only time I decided I couldn't live any longer, in Dec 2011, I called 911. I'd say, even a decision I make based in depression, is still a reasoned, rational, good and valid decision. So, my decisions are based in WHO I am, not WHAT I 'have', not WHAT you do.

Maybe that's just me and my decision making process but the simple fact of the matter, no matter how much you want to mock it - I have an anchor that holds me to this world - my cats - and I won't leave them because I believe we are all better off having each other than we would be without. As much as we'd all like to think that our loved ones anchor us, I don't believe it's the norm for people with depression. And part of the fear for us is the possibility that what small anchors we have will leave if we tell them about us. And I believe that is one of the most dangerous things about it. Depressives need an anchor.

So, what does this mean? I've obviously decided that I no longer care what you think of my decisions. Or my actions. Or the way I deal with my issues. Or, maybe, if you've watched me struggle all these years - maybe it's time to just stop pretending I'm successful at hiding it. You're all thinking those things about my decision making regardless, right? However, can you support my decisions? Do you love me enough to tell me when you think I've made a bad decision and can you weather the storm (if there is one) while we talk about it? Another way we are afraid that we will lose our anchors.

I also think that as friends or as a society we need to really recognize the following point - we're big boys and girls and we're intelligent enough to know when we need help and we owe it to OURSELVES to get it. There's certainly no shortage of help available, good and bad. And yes, I've let friends go when I see a refusal to get help and I know that I can't be a party to it anymore. I have a dear friend who is struggling with horrible pain (and is not as fortunate as me to have financial help) who says, "OF COURSE I'm depressed. Just fix my pain and I'll be fine." His decision is to refuse treatment for the depression. I'm not saying that his decision is wrong, per se, but only that I am no longer able to support that he sees it as a symptom that will magically disappear. That I can't support his refusal to get help. Even if his pain was magically gone tomorrow, he will still be so overwhelmed by his depression that I doubt he would continue to function and even if he could - almost four years of this has already destroyed everything 'normal' in his life. I'm tough but I can't carry him as well as myself for any longer.

So, if we (you and I) have a difficult discussion - is one of your fears that I will kill myself? I see difficult discussions that I've had with friends as information, as caring - even if I see it as misdirected or downright wrong and even if it ends the friendship - and sometimes, the clarity of a discussion, or it's helpfulness, is something I don't see until farther down the road.

Would you rather not have the discussion and take away from both of us something valuable or would you rather take the chance that you may "cause" me to off myself? And here's the hard truth, YOU, the things you say, the things you do - can't make me do anything. If you say something harsh to me, then I either get it, work through it or put on my big girl panties and get some help -- or I don't.

If my response to difficult things (ie: life) is to end it, then maybe that was my version of putting on my big girl panties and in the end, that has nothing to do with anyone else.

I have known people who just couldn't fight anymore and so have killed themselves. I don't see that as MY failure. I don't see it as THEIR failure. I see it as a decision they made after years of struggle didn't yield any success. I don't think they just gave up. I think they decided it was time to go and, although I know it is very hard to understand from a non-brain cootie perspective, I respect their decision.

We also have to acknowledge and accept that some people's personalities demand that they be a victim. I've walked away from people like that as well - because, again, hard discussions and big girl panties.

People with depression are just like anyone else with a disease - be it cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, etc - and that's how they should be treated. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to treat them that way.
Article originally appeared on if you're not a penguin...shut it (http://getsoutmore.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.