How do you address stigma about depression?
Depression is an illness, and it’s an illness that’s not easy to cope with. But in addition to the illness itself and how awful it makes you feel some days, you also have to deal with people – from the closest family to the most casual stranger – judging you for not being strong enough to “just cheer up”.
Depression diagnoses are showing significant increase, but there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the condition. Speaking up and doing the needed educational work is hard when you’re already dealing with a debilitating illness, and yet, when others try to educate the general public about depression, their voices may lack the authenticity of lived experience.
You are strong
Mahevash Shaikh, writing on the website HealthyPlace.com reminds us that people living with chronic illnesses like depression are not weak (for succumbing to illness), rather they are strong, having developed a strength to deal with their illness that healthy people have no need for. As she points out “depression doesn’t discriminate” anyone can be attacked by the “black dog” at any time in their life.
The daily grind of dealing with depression may very often make the sufferer feel weak – just dragging yourself out of bed in the morning may take more than you feel like you have to give, but for that very reason, you have developed and are developing strength to do what needs to be done in spite of how you may feel.
Educate your close supporters
So, how can we make more people aware of the realities of the fight against depression? First, it’s important to develop a close support network of people nearby that you can call on for help when needed. These may be some (probably not all) of your near family, friends, work colleagues and neighbors to whom you can open up more deeply and ask for specific kinds of help that you need at specific times to get through. To this close network, you will have to do some educating about depression, and give them some resources to read.
For another, wider circle of people you’re in regular contact with, you don’t want to exhaust yourself with explanations, but some offering of information and personal sharing can make a big difference in how people interact with you. Choose a time when you’re feeling relatively well, and ask them to take a few minutes to hear your story. Learning to be vulnerable in this way is not comfortable, and can feel at times like an added burden, but it may be helpful to think of it as an investment – putting out energy now in order to get back support later when you really need it.
Join a community
For the wider world, joining groups, movements, online communities and the like may also be a place where you find you have something to give back out of the strength you have gained battling depression. Making these contributions as a part of a group is another way to increase your own strength while also helping others increase theirs. It’s important to remember that nobody is alone in their struggle – there are other people on this path as well. When you find them, it’s like adding a whole lot of muscle without doing reps at the gym – with a community we are even stronger.
Never let the world tell you you are weak. You are strong and developing more strength every day.
Reference: Shaikh, M. (2020, August 19). Depressed? You’re Not Weak, You’re Strong, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2020/8/depressed-youre-not-weak-youre-strong