Depression has made me want to shrink myself, hide away, avoid all of the phone calls, emails, and text messages. Depression has robbed my creativity, my motivation, my confidence and strength. But I can’t hide. The stigma surrounding mental illness is begging me to be brave. Stigma harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence and prevents them from seeking help. It leads to people with mental illness being treated unfairly, and causes us to harshly judge ourselves. So I’d like to share my thoughts on some common misconceptions about depression, from a girl with bipolar disorder.
Depression is not lazy.
Depression is a disabling physical, mental, and emotional fatigue. Depression is sleeping for 3 days straight and still feeling tired. Depression is struggling to find the energy to get out of bed, brush your teeth, put clean clothes on. Depression is exhaustion that reaches more deeply than you knew was possible.
Depression is not attention-seeking.
Depression is the need for nurturing attention from your closest support system. Depression is not knowing how to find help. Depression is bravely asking for help when you feel like you should be able to get better on your own.
Depression is not a character flaw.
Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and many other mental illnesses are diagnosable neurobiological conditions. It is no different than being diagnosed with a physical condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease, except that bipolar disorder affects a different organ—the brain. Many mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, have significant genetic influences.
Depression is not a choice.
It is not even necessarily circumstantial. Relapse is not a failure, poor management of the condition, or a lack of discipline. Bipolar disorder is chronic and relapsing by nature.
Depression is not “being dramatic.”
Depression is being consumed by your emotion mind. Depression is ruminating on negative thoughts, past experiences, and exponential worry about the future. Depression is losing hope that things will get better.
Depression is not weakness.
Depression is being knocked down over and over again, reaching deep within to overcome the anger and frustration that this is happening again, and finding the willingness and determination to get back up. Depression is hard work. Depression is resilience and strength.
What misconceptions about mental illness did I miss? How has mental illness stigma affected you?