Depression, it’s not that bad…
It infuriates me whenever I hear that. I’m sure it also upsets the estimated 350 million people worldwide* who are affected by depression (and this statistic doesn’t even touch on the number of family members and friends affected by depression). Just because it’s not visible, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Having depression is real and because it’s internalized, it makes it all the more difficult to express and find support.
Did you know that depression comes in many forms? For example, there’s situational depression, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, psychosis depression to name a few. And then of course there’s depression that’s a symptom of something else such as bipolar, autism, aspergers and dysthymia (persistent mild depression).
I grew up in a home that discouraged conversations around the house. Dinner time was particularly a quiet time when we were told to eat and not speak. Years after my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he shared with my dad that he thinks what he might be also suffering from depression. My dad, who was already ashamed that his eldest son had schizophrenia, immediately shut my brother’s perspective out and said, “stop talking nonsense…you don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Our struggles are our own to manage and sadly if the people around us do not have the capacity to offer support, compassion, patience and understanding, then it may be time to find another support group. I realize it’s much easier said than done because the notion of severing ties and communication with our loved ones, family members, certain friends or even partners can seem daunting and unfathomable.
Many years ago, I remember having a few conversations with my older sister on the child abuse that was inflicted upon us three kids growing up and the effects of depression it had particularly on me. She quickly dismissed it and would say, “It wasn’t that bad…I got hit just as much.” (implying that she wasn’t affected by the abuse.) She went on to justify that all Chinese families exhibit some form of physical and emotional abuse growing up and it was a normal and acceptable part of life. I haven’t since spoken to her about the topic knowing that she doesn’t share the same space of compassion and understanding with me.
I recently met up with a friend I met at my Meetup for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. She’s a lovely and pretty young lady who has her fair share of battles with depression. We had a wonderful time having a couple of beers and lunch chatting about how she was physically abused by her father growing up and continues to live at home with her parents. She went on to explain that she one day approached her dad about the abuse and he quickly laughed it off and replied, “oh, that was so long ago…let it go…let’s move forward.”
Whether it’s about depression, our mental health or abuse, the point is to make sure we reach out to the proper support to have our experiences validated (“Why Validation works in Relationships”). We must not allow our experiences to be taken away by others who say, “it’s not that bad”, “get over it”, or “that never happened that way”. Our experiences are real. There will be people who are unprepared to accept our experiences, and that’s OK. Simply accept that they aren’t capable of hearing about other people’s vulnerabilities because of possible reasons of fear or shame that they have within themselves. They’re inability to provide support, is not a reflection of our truths and should not stop us from finding the compassion we need.
Over the years I’ve discovered a wonderful bunch of people at the Meetup group and of course my counsellor and now friend, Guillermo who provides the validation I need.
Take the time to find your support and enjoy the rest of your weekend, Readers!
*statistic by the World Health Organization in 2012