I am almost 30, and at this point I have been dealing with major depression since I was 11-years-old, so basically two thirds of my entire life. I was diagnosed in early adolescence after a series of events that I’d rather not delve into here, and it’s been a struggle ever since.
I have always tried to be pro-active about my mental health, and I think getting a diagnosis at a young age helped with that, but due to the stigma attached to mental illness, I’ve always had to deal with some level of judgment. This pretty much tripled when I had kids. No one would question a person’s ability to parent because they had diabetes (as long as they were treating it properly) so why is it deemed okay to do so for depression, or other treatable mental illnesses? Below are some of the shitty things that have been said to me over the years. Some are merely annoying, while other are infuriating, but all of them are ridiculous and better left unsaid.
7. “Too many people are on medication. A pill won’t make your life better.”
Would you say this to a diabetic? How about someone on dialysis? Why is it beyond some people’s comprehension that something like depression can be treated with medication, but they never balk at other, more visible conditions? Ironically, these are the same people who have no problem smoking a cigarette or getting drunk every weekend (not that I judge drunkenness, it’s wonderful).
*I in no way meant to negate anyone’s experiences with people who deny diabetes or other diseases. I know that it does happen. But I think the average person is more inclined to accept a disease where there are more visible symptoms, and less controversy surrounding its existence. In the end my point is that people are d-bags*
6. “You can’t just be sad all the time!”
Yes I can. It’s called major depression. Why are we even having this conversation. You suck,
5. “Of course you’re depressed, you’ve made so many bad choices.”
This was in regards to having a child at 19. Even though I still finished college, had my daughter with my high school sweetheart (who I ended up being with for almost a decade) and worked my ass off. Not to mention that this isn’t how depression works. And seeing as I was diagnosed at 11, what bad choices had I made then? Infuriating.
4. “Aren’t you afraid your kids will become crazy?”
The problem here is less the question itself. It’s not a terrible, insulting question, or at least it wouldn’t be if it was phrased differently. No, the problem is WHO asks it. It would be understandable for my doctor, or a close friend or relative to ask, but I once had a woman who was in line behind me at the pharmacy ask this. She had the gall to not only look over my shoulder as see what my medication was, but then to ask this highly personal question. And right in front of my kids. It was a total WTF moment.
3. “Can’t you just cheer up?”
Once again, depression just doesn’t work this way. The problem isn’t that I’m being a Debbie Downer or a sad sack, and I should just suck it up. This is usually said by someone who doesn’t “believe” in mental illnesses, and thinks we’re all just making it up. Who cares what a little thing called science says, right? Ugh.
2. “How can your husband trust you with the kids?”
This was said to me by an in-law (the same lady who tried to sell me, a recovering bulimic, diet products, so as you can see, she is just a peach). As I mentioned above, I am very pro-active about my condition. I see a doctor regularly, I take medication, and I see a therapist. If, and this is a very huge if, I ever got to the point where I was a danger to myself and others, I think everyone would have ample warning. But it’s never happened, and my condition isn’t so severe that I’ve ever been suicidal or dangerous in anyway. I mean, there’s been a few times when I’ve stayed in bed and missed a couple of showers, so I might have SMELLED dangerous, but I don’t think that counts.
1. “Don’t your children make you happy?”
This is probably the most rage inducing from me. Do people think we WANT to feel like this? I would call this phrase, if there were a depressed person guilt bingo board, the “Disneyfied Guilt Trip.” Everything simply MUST be all sweetness and light once you pop out a uterus fruit, or you just aren’t a good mom. YES, I love my kids. YES, they make me happy. That has nothing to do with how my brain is wired, or the chemicals in my body that are causing my depression. Trust me, if there was some kind of off switch I could throw to make myself feel wonderful all the time, don’t you think I would throw it? The lack of basic empathy that people have never ceases to amaze me.