The discerning amongst you will have noticed that this blog has taken a turn for the depressive of late. It’s not something I’ll apologise for, but I have every half-hearted intention of going back to what this blog was originally about: pointless bollocks.
But before I fail at that resolution, I’d like to write a non-depressive post about depression. It’s been in the news this week that young people, some under ten years old, who fear they have depression, are being dismissed by doctors. This is total bullshit.
Depression can be an overwhelmingly lonely illness. This is not only because you often don’t feel up to socialising, and so shut yourself away and, in my case, litter the internet with bollocks instead. More acute is the sense of isolation. It is difficult to talk to anybody about what you’re feeling. Not only is it intensely personal. The fear that they won’t understand is tremendous. And when you finally, desperately summon the courage to talk about it, to have them dismiss you is confusing, painful, and hugely damaging.
I’ve only been open about my depression for a year or so. But several years ago, during a particularly difficult spell, I decided to tell my two best friends that I might have depression. Using the full scope of my maturity I did this via Facebook message.
He didn't care either.
Shortly afterward they responded to ask if I wasn’t just overreacting a little bit. Perhaps I was just feeling sad because my life was in a rut. It would soon pass, and I would realise I was just being melodramatic.
So I tried to forget about it. To show such vulnerability and be knocked back was completely humiliating. So I continued to ignore the problem and only found the courage to seek help years later, by which time my depression was far worse.
My intention in relating this story is not to blame my friends. I am just as guilty of showing the same ignorance to a member of my family. While she struggled for many years with severe depression, I sat back and wondered, often aloud, why she couldn’t just get over it? After all, what did she have to be depressed about? Instead of trying to understand or offer any kind of awkward teenage familial support, I made them feel weak for having a mental illness.
Something for which I am very, very sorry.
The point I’m labouring over is that we have to hear people out when they voice a concern about their mental health. If a friend told you that they think they’ve found a lump on their body, you’d take it seriously and tell them to see a doctor. It should be no different for depression.
It will always be especially difficult to diagnose depression and other mental illnesses in young people, especially while they’re being subjected to the hormonal rigours of puberty. But to dismiss them out of hand is simply wrong. It’s an obvious point, but one that clearly needs to be made.
To end, I’d like to share a link. I’m well aware, from personal experience, that comprehending depression and how it affects people is incredibly difficult. This is a selection of comics that capture depression as accurately as perhaps is possible. I really urge you to take a look.