There are a lot of misconceptions about depression, mainly because people say things like “I’m so depressed” when, in fact, they’re simply sad. It’s like saying you have a migraine when, in fact, you have a headache. There’s a vast difference between the two…they’re not even remotely the same!
The worst misconception is the one which adds to the suffering of someone who is clinically depressed – the idea that they can “will themselves” out of it. That they must just “change their attitude and be more grateful for what they have”. That is like saying to a diabetic that (if they want it badly enough) they’ll be able to control their insulin levels without medication!
Another dreadful misconception is that antidepressant medicines are “happy pills”. That is simply not so. There are many reputable sites on the internet for those interested in learning more about the different types of antidepressant medication, here is just one quote from HealthyPlace.com:
“Most antidepressants are believed to work by slowing the removal of certain chemicals from the brain. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and norepinephrine). Neurotransmitters are needed for normal brain function and are involved in the control of mood and in other functions, such as eating, sleep, pain and thinking. Antidepressants work by making these natural chemicals more available to the brain.”
Please note that we’re talking about natural chemicals which the brain needs to control mood and other functions.
The third dreadful misconception is that you should be embarrassed by a diagnosis of “mental illness”. An illness is an illness, and you’re no more to blame for falling prey to a mental illness than you are to blame for catching the flu! It’s staggering to me how many people don’t get that!
I consider myself a Depression Survivor. I have had several bouts with the beast over the course of my life so far. The last one landed me in a Psychiatric Hospital for a month a few years ago. I’m no longer ashamed about the fact that I needed both medication and psychotherapy to learn how to live again.
Checking myself into that hospital was absolutely the very best thing I could have done for myself and my family. My husband and children got counselled too, and it helped them to understand that I wasn’t just “lazy” or disinterested in them. I was literally battling for my life!
People in general also don’t realise that untreated depression can lead to death! This is a serious illness which too many people suffer in silence, because they don’t want to be perceived as weak!
In case you’re wondering, I no longer require psychotherapy. I’m in a really good space in my life and have a wonderful relationship with my husband and children. I do still take a “maintenance dose” of antidepressant however, because I never want to go back to where I was!
My aim today is to encourage other mothers who are feeling overwhelmed to reach out to a medical professional. Trust me, being a martyr does no good to anyone! Apart from that, you’ll be amazed at how many brilliant people have been diagnosed with a mental illness. In fact some of my dearest friends, women whom I truly admire, have a history of mental illness of their own!
Have you or a loved one ever been diagnosed with a mental illness? How did you deal with it? What advice do you have for someone else who might be dealing with the same difficulties?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mamma Simona from Cape Town. She shares her home with a husband, a 20 year old son, a 17 year old daughter, 2 dogs and 2 cats. You can find her blogging at www.blogbythephoenix.com.
Photo credit to Leon Hellburg. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.
Great Post, Mamma Simona! The stigma of mental illness is so powerful and it is only through people like you speaking up that it will lose some of its power. There should be no shame surrounding taking care of ourselves the same we would for any malady. Thank you for sharing.
You are so right, Simona: we all need support when we feel overwhelmed and so many of us are afraid to ask for it.
There is a lot of tv ads about depression here in New Zealand at the moment – long over due in the land of the stoic: suck-it-up; she’ll be right; get over yourself; harden-up; it doesn’t hurt that bad; don’t be a cry-baby…
So pleased you raised this for us all to think about.
Nicely done. I “outed” my depression late 2012. It felt liberating, but I still worry it will affect future job opportunities. I hope to become more involved in the spreading of truth on mental illness so my children don’t have to struggle as I have over the past 20+ years.
This is a gorgeous post, Simona. I love who you are. And, I love this:
“The worst misconception is the one which adds to the suffering of someone who is clinically depressed – the idea that they can “will themselves” out of it. That they must just “change their attitude and be more grateful for what they have”. That is like saying to a diabetic that (if they want it badly enough) they’ll be able to control their insulin levels without medication!”
What a great comparable. This is a very important topic, and the world wins when mental health is openly talked about instead of hushed about. Great post!!
Thank you all for your positive comments. This is something I feel very strongly about, but it is only thanks to you wonderful people I’ve met through WMB that I’ve had the courage to write about it. You’re all awesome!! 🙂
Thanks for being brave and talking about this. As much as people have opened up about depression and mental illness, sadly, many people still hold onto their old stigmas.
The more people there are talking openly about it, the more people will be educated about it and feel okay about talking about it.
I echo the previous comments – good for you for taking this head on and getting help. And thank you for sharing your wisdom. I have had loved ones deal with depression, but you put it really clearly, and I learned from it. Much love to you!
Thank you Simona for your post. I can’t imagine that it was easy to write, but know that sharing it is helping others learn more about it (including me!) Big hug!
Great post. Thanks for sharing this! I know it will help the moms who see it!
This is a beautiful post Simona. I love your courage and thank you for sharing this.
“An illness is an illness, and you’re no more to blame for falling prey to a mental illness than you are to blame for catching the flu! It’s staggering to me how many people don’t get that!”
This is so natural and a very practical way of putting it. This makes absolute sense 🙂
Simona, what lead you to finally decided to check in to the hospital. if may ask?
I finally decided to check in to the hospital because I just couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life feeling so awful. I also felt really terrible for the toll it was taking on my husband and children. They tried to be supportive but I could see that (at least on some level) they were resenting the fact that I never felt like doing anything!
I live with chronic pain (due to my Fibromyalgia) but, at least now (since I got out of hospital) I can be grateful for so many other things, I can laugh and have fun and the pain is more bearable! Most of the time I’m actually quite content even though the constant pain is very tiring. 🙂
thank you for the answer, Simona! I was wondering what was the deal breaker for you!
I do, too, live with a chronic pain, and it made everything so much harder… feeling pretty crappy myself lately. It feels like every time the depression visits me it’s worse and worse with each time.
Thank you for speaking so openly about this issue!
What I learnt was that the depression got worse every time because I was afraid to really look at (and deal with) the underlying causes (apart from needing the right meds). That’s why I really encourage anyone struggling with depression to seek medical help. In my case (being in the hospital) made me feel safe enough to REALLY “dig deep”. To my enormous surprise there was NO “deep, dark, repressed drama”! When I opened that locked door there was nothing there! For years I’d been terrified of “cracking up” for no reason! Just like the saying goes; “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. That is so true. I’m sending you a big hug of support and best wishes. <3
Very yes to all of this. I hate it when people say you should just “suck it up”. It’s like “YOUR MIND WON’T LET YOU.”
I try to remind people that Depression is a recognized DISEASE with a DEATH RATE. Suicide kills more people than any kind of cancer. That’s a deadly disease.