Why I talk openly about the deep dark hole I'm sitting in (and why you should too)

I recently had a conversation with a new follower of mine on twitter, in which they were marveling at how open I am about my depression and taking medication. Once more, this reminded me of how that isn't what people normally do. And I'm thinking maybe I should explain why I do this, talk about my depression.

Depression is still a massive taboo. People don't talk about it. Especially not people who suffer from it. It's still as if admitting you are depressed means admitting some kind of gigantic flaw, like you brought this on yourself. That doesn't exactly make sense to me. It's as if one were to blame you for breaking your leg, or getting cancer, or a goddamn brick falling from the sky and landing on your head. So those of us who suffer from depression still do their utmost to keep it that information very private. To keep it from colleagues, employers, sometimes even friends. It's understandable, no one wants to look weak. They fear they will lose their jobs if their bosses find out. It's a taboo, period.

However, I'm in the fortunate position of not having an employer. Since I quit my jobs (all of them) last year I am my own employer. And besides being a very straighforward person in general, that particular situation enables me to be very open about what I have been going through. I don't hide it. I sometimes make a point to mention it in conversation. Just like I mention that I'm queer. I believe that if I want it (whether that's being queer or being depressed) as a normal, non-taboo thing, I have to treat it like it is exactly that: normal.

Ever since I started talking openly about my depression I've come across a lot of people who are facing the same difficulties. I've had friends and acquaintances alike react with a heartfelt „Oh my, you too?“ and share their troubles with me. It turns out a lot of people I know suffer from depression, a couple even take antidepressants. But they all do it silently. And when I mention this huge taboo topic many seem very grateful to finally be able to talk it through with someone. I don't blame them for not being open about it. But since I have the rare chance to be „out“ I will continue to do so because apparently it helps not only me but also other people. Just like it helped me when I read Beth Hommel's blog about depression. It was a while ago but I'd still like to mention it because it helped me so much to read it and realise that I was not alone in this. That the feeling I had each morning when I tried to drag myself out of bed was not me being a failure at life but a completely normal symptom of being depressed. My mantra these last few months became: Some days having a shower counts as a success.

By now I'm doing pretty well with the showering. I've been taking antidepressants for about a month now and I have a feeling they're beginning to kick in. I've been waking up earlier for a couple of days now, having not just the will to do something with my day but also the energy needed for it. I've picked up writing again, set myself a daily word count and am doing well with it so far. I run a lot, about three or four times a week (in good weeks) and that's helping a lot as well. I feel calmer, more composed, I like how my body is becoming more muscular and losing the fat I've amassed since writing my thesis. I've been watching a lot less TV since I started writing daily and I've also been gaming less. Sure, some days I still don't manage to get out of the house, take out the trash, be social and meet people or simply arrange a damn doctor's appointment that is long overdue. But I managed to finish my application for a film school and get accepted. It also helps that my wife is sometimes simply arranging social outings for me because I end up enjoying myself (I just don't have the nerve to call and figure it all out beforehand). I still have crappy days, like today for example when I was barely able to crawl out of bed and the day got away from me. I haven't written my 1000 words yet (the ones you are reading here are yesterday's), yet I went for a run, unloaded the dishwasher and took the trash out. But if I can't take the trash out or unload the dishwasher my wife does it when she gets home, and the only person giving me grief about it is me. And one of these days I'll even figure out when to go to the doctor's. It's going to be fine. But, again, it helped a lot to see that I am not the only person struggling with these things. That there are others out there who have been or are going through the same thing and have given me strength simply by sharing their stories.

So I'd like to urge you: If you have the chance to break the taboo that surrounds mental health issues, do it. You will find likeminded people, the most unlikely allies, people who will be there for you and maybe be able to help you through this.
Yes, some will treat you as if you're imagining things, as if such things as mental health issues don't exists. But you know better. And so do we. Please, find solace in the fact that others out there know what you are going through, that to them you aren't a hypochondriac/a failure/imagining things/trying to be interesting/etc. but that you honestly are not okay. We know. And we're right there with you.

So share. Talk. Be open. Be it by talking to your friends or acquaintances, to your partners, your parents, your siblings, hell, even in self-help groups if that is your thing. Write a post-secret. Talk in forums or your blog or facebook or google+. And if you'd rather like to stay anonymous you can even talk here in the comments. But talk. It might just change your life.

6 comments:

  1. I've been taking antideps for almost 2 years now (I stopped for half a year and had to go back). It took about half a year to get the right dosage and the right pills to get that fluffy feeling out of my brain. I never look back, they help, I manage, they have sunflowers on the packaging. Hurray :)
    I'm happy for you, that you might have found the right pill so soon and that it makes you feel better. And I'm happy you are open about it, it's easier to deal with when you don't have to keep it a secret.
    Here's a virtual hug for being brave!

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  2. danke für den sehr persönlichen text - meine erfahrung mit einem ganz anderen tabu-thema fruchtbarkeit und ebenso sexualität war genauso .... es tut dir selbst und vielen anderen gut, wennst den tabubruch begehst und einfach mit leuten drüber redest ...
    glg
    eva

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  3. Hi,

    wollt dir nur sagen, find ich cool, dass du diesen blog schreibst!

    @ sharing:

    Ich bin manisch-depressiv, seit über 10 jahren und dir lange zeit hat natürlich dazu beigetragen, dass ich mitlerweile ganz gut damit umgehen kann. Aber das war bei weitem nicht immer so!!
    Ich bin und war immer deiner Ansicht, dass dieses Tabu schon lange gebrochen gehört, schließlich befinden wir uns nicht mehr in Zeiten in denen leute in den Narrenturm geperrt werden ;o) und an und für sich gehe ich auch recht offen damit um. Leider stößt man damit nicht immer bei allen auf verständnis.

    Anyway, wollt eigentlich nur sagen, ich versteh dich und alle anderen denen es ähnlich geht.
    Es mag einem vielleicht nicht immer so vor kommen, aber mit der zeit lernt man damit zu leben und das nich mal schlecht ;o)

    so, in the spirit of the "It Gets Better"-Project.... it gets better!!!

    An alle da draußen, die in dem stockdunklen raum ohne fenster sitzen und die tür nicht finden, nicht aufgeben!

    Ganz liebe Grüße

    Patricia

    --- dedicated to Paul G., who took his own life on June 18th 2011 at the age of 26.
    R.I.P

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  4. thank you guys for sharing.

    @uinda I have others but I know the ones with the sunflowers on the packaging! :) I know I might be pretty luck what with the not trying out a gazillion different meds over a course of years but let's not jinx it. I've just been having two tough days. However, I don't really think it makes me brave to talk about it. It's purely selfish because I want things to get better for all of us. virtual hug back x

    @eva sometimes I'm not sure if the topic of fertility isn't an even bigger taboo, but since it's not a topic in my own life (yet?) I can't really say much about it. But maybe you should write your own taboo breaking blog post. alles liebe!

    @patrizia I remember we talked about this pretty much the second time we saw each other. I guess that's what happens when you put two people together who are both intent on breaking the silence :) In the end it is our job to talk, wouldn't know how else to make it happen. And in my experience more people than not are understanding. so that's a win! :)

    A bunch of people seem to be lurking here. please, come out of the woodwork and share. we don't bite ;)

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  5. I m not sure that everyone needs to share her or his own experience of depressions, I really am not. I think illness and how to cope with it is very personal and I personally wouldn't wanna read about my illness in a blog nor hear all my friends/people I hardly know talking bout it. I have to cope with it myself. My friends who know about it help me well and I am helping them, when they need me. I sont want to be a burden, and yes, at some point this might happen when self-destructive ideas simply get too much. think about it.

    I do not think depression is a taboo. I speak about it with my friends, they are all grown up and they have similar problems. I guess we re living in a difficult time, maybe more difficult than our parents' generation? But no, I am convinced in the circles i move, depression isnt a taboo. I am also not sure how good it is to break every taboo. but this is my personal opinion.

    And sure I m not gonna talk about this in my blog. Depression is not something you can understand after taking pills for 2 months. It takes years.

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  6. Really glad to find your blog.

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