Wednesday, May 2, 2012
"Have faith in God and seek Him and you won't fall into depression." "Get over it."
"Just look at the glass being half-full instead of half-empty."
"Think positive not negative thoughts."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself; others have problems."
"What do you have to be depressed about: look at the GOOD THINGS you enjoy...."
"It's not a big deal; blow it off."
"Cheer up; relax and keep a cheerful attitude."
"Be thankful for what you have and you'll feel better."
"Shame on you for being depressed; God will give you something to be REALLY depressed about if you carry on like you are."
"Look at....; this person is facing worse problems than you and this person is not depressed."
"Mind over matter. Tell yourself you're not depressed and good feelings will follow."
"Count all your blessings and you'll see that you have no reason to feel depressed."
"You are not the only person in the world with problems; things are tough all around for most people. Someone is always worse off than you."
"Think about the starving, the terminally ill, the disabled, the homeless, and anyone else facing worse problems than you; get your eyes off yourself and focus on others' needs."
"Depressed? Get off your duff and help others."
"Chin up. Others don't want to hear about your problems because they have their own."
"Life sucks. Chalk it up and move on."
"He is a scumbag anyway; he is not worth your tears."
"Snap out of it."
"It isn't that bad; stop thinking about it and let it it go."
"Have faith in God and pray; it is not God's will for His people to live in depression."
"Depression is an attack of the devil; rebuke this depression demon and it will leave you."
"Christians should always be happy because God has blessed us. What is wrong with you?"
These are just examples of the many things people typically say to those who are dealing with depression. I have heard them said over and over to depressed people in my life. Though I try not to say things like this that minimize people's depression, I'm sure I have. Many of thse things are said to depressed people because few people want to deal with depressed people and their feelings and want to see the depression stop. Many, even most, of these things, are said to depressed people in order to relieve the speaker's discomfort with seeing that another is depressed. And often, those who say these things simply don't want to hear how bad someone else is feeling. Yes, there is some truth in many of these sayings. We should help and serve others. We should thank God for blessing us with what He has. We sould trust Him with our problems and pray. We should have empathy for others both near and far and care for the less fortunate to the best of our ability. Yes, we should do these things.
When I write about depression I'm not talking about the common "blues" that all of us experience when our moods go awry or we are having a bad day. Nor am I talking about grief, the "normal" reaction to loss and which lessens with time. I'm talking about depression experienced on a level that interferes with the depressed person's daily and basic functioning, such as relating to one's family and friends, the ability to focus on what one needs to do, the will to attend to one's responsibilities and even the will to live. I'm writing about the depression where a person loses interest in things formerly and normally loved and enjoyed, including family and friends, eating, hobbies, grooming, and other normal pursuits. This kind of depression can't be wished away, ignored and people can't be admonished to behave their way out of this.
I know this by experience. Depression isn't just caused by stressful outside circumstances but by things like chemical inbalances, medicine side effects, hormones, one's personality type and more. And as a person of faith, I do believe in a personal devil and that he can attack people by bringing spells of depression on them. Since early childhood, since being diagnosed with epilepsy, I have taken anti-convulsants. These anticonvulsants that are meant to control seizures carry major side effects altering one's mental faculties, including memory, focus, processing speed, sex drive, reflexes, moods and more. Most thankful that Depakote that I take has kept me seizure-free for over 12 years, I continue to experience all the side effects mentioned, more or less. This med has solved one medical problem while creating others, including depression spells. Yes, I know (and am reminded by family) that my side effects, miserable as they are, are the lesser of two evils, which is uncontrolled seizures. Yet long-term use of anti-convulsants have given me, in effect, a chemical lobotomy (as opposed to the surgical ones that used to be done to people). Especially since I'm a mom, I have been told, when I reveal or express depression, "You can't be depressed. Remember, you have a daughter and you're supposed to put her first," "If being depressed is causing you to neglect your daughter, get over it," and "At least you're not homeless, etc., etc.." I guess this is the natural response to depression because
we want to feel good and we want others to feel good; this way life will be easier for us all, yes?
Stressful circumstances commonly serve as triggers even if depression has biological causes. This is know very well. Most of my depression spells are triggered by stressful events, immediately following such events. Also, depression is often caused by issues in life that one needs to address, especially if one feels powerless to do so because of finances or other people. Currently, I'm experiencing a spell of depression which has been triggered by a major falling-out I have had with a person online, and by my distress over my lack of access to getting an autism spectrum evaluation which could provide definitive answers as to why my life has taken the twists and turns it has.
Yesterday, when I was scrolling through my homepage to see what was going on, I saw a post by a Facebook user who was despondent and revealed that he felt worthless, hurting and a loser, because a girlfriend had rejected him. A user posted in the comment section underneath his status, "Chin up." Another Facebook user said, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself; other people have problems also." I posted a more empathic response. These kinds of responses to people (mostly women) who share their depressed feelings on Facebook, is empathy, caring, compassion and "cyber-hugs." In most of these cases, the sharers have been women and their supporters have also usually been women. Yes, I think that some of the depressed posts have been overdone and come off as attention-getting rather than genuine. A number of people on my page seem to use social networking solely to vent their bad feelings, whether stemming from bad circumstances or mental health conditions, and to seek support from others.
My research and experience tell me that people on the autism spectrum, especially teens and adults, get depressed often. And no wonder. For autism spectrum disorders, by their very nature, make people vulnerable to misunderstanding and being misunderstood. When you constantly suffer from difficult human relationships because people don't "get" you and you don't "get" them and they don't accept you as a differently-wired person but equally valuable, depression is almost unavoidable. Depression is probably experienced by many others who have other invisible disabilities for many of the same reasons.
The stigma of depression has lessened, thanks to brave, high-profile people who have "gone public" with their depression experiences. But the stigma remains and it is worst religious circles where the expectation is that faith will make and keep us always happy, or should. In the Christian Church, it has traditionally been seen as as moral weakness, a sign of weak faith, or even a sin. Depression may not be a sin or a moral weakness but how we react to it and handle it can lead to doing bad things. And depressed people who would benefit from medicine or other treatments should, if possible, do what they can to seek medical treatment (yes I know that anti-depressants can have very bad side effects and are not for many people).
"Jesus wept," the Bible tells us. "He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Do I need to add anything to that?