“A key part of forming a friendship is haring personal histories, which can be a precarious rite…The gaps in your life–how do you explain them? You can always make up stories, but beginning a friendship with a lie about your life doesn’t feel good. Or you can say nothing about how you’ve spent the last few years, which strikes people as odd. Or you can choose to tell them about your illness, and find out the hard way that most people aren’t ready to hear about it. Mental illness comes with stigma attached to it, and that stigma can set off a negative reaction, even from the nicest people, with good intentions and kind hearts.”
–Elyn R. Saks, The Center Cannot Hold: The Journey through Madness, Hyperion, New York, 2007, page 288
YOU DON’T JUST GET OVER DEPRESSION. You become angry, isolated, selfish, disruptive, and then perhaps remorseful on top of that. So what does happen when you ask a depressive person “When are you going to get over this?”
After releasing myself from the hospital the last time and in 1987, I went back to work. I dreaded having to make up the work I had missed–but work did seem to help somewhat. When I got out of the hospital, the question about where I had been naturally came up, although I certainly did not tell anyone where I really was. It was an uncomfortable time. I am not sure that it has changed today with others that have or will go through this type of experience. While I continued to go to the hospital as an out-patient, I kept that secret to myself. I felt that I would have been judged and put down for having been there–and I was ashamed.
My hospital stays, there were two, were probably necessary. I learned some things about myself. Depression can be anger inside out. I believe that. But what was I angry about? I had issues with both my parents. I had issues with my faith. My father did not emancipate me. My mother was overbearing and protective. I was angry at everything–I was angry for being angry. Shame and anger interact. In a sense, anger can be constructive or destructive. By hurting my parents or others, I was hurting myself. There was hatred in my anger.
There were many times when I was not able to accept other people’s advice what I should do or not do. I had this feeling that I was unique, and because it did not take away the pain when these individuals were giving advice, I became addicted to rage. If depression is black, then my anger was red. Rage is a drug in itself, and it’s addicting. Anger is truly the result of not getting your needs met. It allows the void to be filled and is a demonstration of the ego. I learned to use rage to manipulate the environment around me. When the rage would leave, the emptiness and the void of the depression would come back.
When you are in the proverbial toilet, you are completely isolated. To describe depression as the “common cold” of mental illness is like equating the “common cold” with cancer. If I were making the comparison, I would probably look at depression in the same way that I look at cancer. Those who have experienced depression are survivors. I look at the euphemistic expression, “Time heals all wounds,” in the same way. For those who are depressed, the depression may ebb and flow but it does not go away–and it leaves scars.
How many time have you heard the question: “When are you going to get over this?” Ask this question to a person who is stuck in the intensity of depression–you may see some righteous anger released. Ask a person who has bee depressed most of their life–truly the anger is righteous. The question is completely dehumanizing. It absolutely amazes me how perceptive people think they are about others and their problems–while at the same time they are completely oblivious about their own issues. It becomes easy to have a hard surface. With that shallow but hard facade, I got pretty damn good at pretending everything was fine.