Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Misconceptions about Depression Destroyed by Robin Williams

I was standing in line to pick up my mom's prescription for an anti-depressant.  She had been held late at work and the pharmacy would be closed before she got there.  She, like me, always waits for the last minute to pick up the refill because we don't like to admit we need the drug.  It was there that my Facebook news feed went from cute babies and weather reports (yes, its hot, its August, get over it) to RIP Robin Williams.  I assumed cause of death was heart attack, the age fit.  Then more information was released.... Apparent Suicide.... Depression.... and so, in Robin's final act on earth he blew open the oft denied world of depression.

My first thought was that he was making the ultimate sacrifice to call attention to a devastating disease.  A disease that destroys just as quickly as one that is left untreated by antibiotics.  I have never before thought of suicide as anything but incredibly selfish, until today, Robin Williams' suicide was a generous gift to all those that fight depression on a daily basis.

I wasn't even a fan of Robin Williams as an actor or comedian, I found the majority of his material too crude for my prudish taste.  And tonight I am jumping on the RIP Robin Williams Bandwagon, because his act will help many.

In college I had a neighbor who thought depression was made up, that people who claimed to be depressed were simply unhappy and ungrateful and needed to buck up and get over it.  I was actually jealous that her life had been so untouched by this confusing disease.

More recently I was talking with a friend, "Sue" about a mutual friend, "Alice".   Alice often behaved oddly, withdrawn, snobby.  Sue was confused as they were old friends, why was Alice suddenly behaving so rudely to her.  I explained that her behavior wasn't rude, but tell tale signs of being in a depressive low.  Sue questioned what Alice had to be depressed about. Alice was wealthy, her husband was a successful realtor and prominent land owner in our small town.  She had 4 healthy, kind, intelligent children (she also had a fifth healthy and pretty child but the kind and intelligent adjectives don't really apply).

And because I struggle with depression, as does my mom, and my sister, and my dad, and my brother, and my aunts, and.... the list goes on.

I was more than happy to explain

Five Common Misconceptions about Depression

1. Depression is NOT synonymous with Unhappiness or Ingratitude
     A depressed person can be perfectly happy with their life situation, well aware of how good they have it, and grateful for the many blessings God has bestowed upon them.
 I have an amazing life.  Beautiful kind children, the best husband in the world, a safe home, the opportunity to stay at home to care for my children, we will never be wealthy by any stretch of the word, but I can afford piano lessons for my children and new running shoes when the need arises, so pretty much my life is fantastic.
  Yet at least 2-3 mornings a week I awake with a feeling of dread that settles over my bright life.  Low and bleak.  I know I have no external cause for these feelings and yet they are there and they are real.  I battle guilt of appearing ungrateful but in moments of clarity I know this is not the case.  These feelings and emotions are in my mind, they live there, and they battle it out.
  Does this sound crazy?  Sometimes I feel crazy.

2.  Depressed people are not Crazy.
    Although often times we feel that way.  And sometimes our behavior may appear crazy.  But I promise you, we know it and we are striving to remedy those behaviors.

3.  Depression is not something you can "Get Over"
    Sorry folks, you can't "get over" Diabetes because your body doesn't produce enough insulin.  You can't "Get Over" depression because your body doesn't produce enough THP5, Vitamin D, etc.

4.  Pills aren't a Fix All but they are NOTHING of which to be ASHAMED.
    I hate taking anti-depressants, but I love what they have taught me.  I have used them off and on my entire adult life.  I am currently off them.  In my experience pills help lower the frequency of depressive episodes, which is wonderful.  Without them I would never know how it felt to react 'normally' to the stresses daily life throws at me.  They also lower the frequency of feelings and emotions in general.  I can either go through life experiencing 80% of the emotions good or bad while taking an anti depressant, OR not take it and accept the lows and enjoy the highs.  My depression is not a severe case.  I have an extremely supportive husband who recognizes when I am slipping before I do and together we have found tools and words that help us make it through to the  other side as quickly and with as little damage as possible.
  I also have a doctor who was first my friend and second my doctor, she is helping me treat depression by adding vitamins and minerals that help build the missing chemicals in my brain.
   It is because of my support group that I can go off anti-depressants and enjoy life to the fullest extent that my brain chemistry will allow.
Please note this option is not the easy route (there is no easy route) nor is it possible for everyone.

5.  Depression is not the result of External Circumstance
  Very similar to Misconception #1, Robin Williams proves this.  He had 3 children with whom he appeared to have healthy relationships.  He had a wife who loves him.  He has the adoration of the general American public, and more money than most people would know what to do with.  Yet his battle with depression has been long and ongoing, as evidenced by his struggles with addiction and substance abuse which are symptoms of self medication and NOT the cause of depression.
          His fame and fortune did not exclude him from the battles of the mind.

Thank you Robin Williams for giving your life to call attention to this plague of modern society that is oft overlooked, swept under the rug, or covered up by focusing on the actions of those who struggle with Depression and other Mental Illness (ie: substance abuse, physical violence).  It is time that our society invests resources into helping those that struggle with various forms of Mental Illness instead of continuing on with life, turning a blind eye, and letting it claim its victims from all walks of life. 

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