Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Some Things I Know About Depression

You could say I'm only writing this blog post because of yesterday's tragic news about Robin Williams. You could also say that I'm going to be one of many blogging about this today.

Yesterday, I had to step away from the outpouring of advice and stories and suicide prevention help information. It felt like too much to bear. Depression has touched my life--as well as the young adult writing community--in so many ways, it feels like it's taken up its own residency. It's hard to not recognize the patterns when our favorite authors go quiet for too long on Twitter or when book releases are pushed back for personal reasons. The simple truth is I know a few things about depression.

It likes to sound simple. How many times has the word depression been used to describe disappointment? Or an upsetting incident? "Perk up, buttercup! What do you have to be depressed about?" Depression wants you to watch your friend bounce off to enjoy their life. It makes you think you should be able to do the same. If it were only that simple.

No one would every say, "You just need to get some sunshine to cure that cancer" or "That schizophrenia would be under control if you got out of bed today." Depression is a disease, not a symptom.

It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care who you are or where you came from. How good or how bad you may have had it. What your upbringing was like or where you went to school. How successful you've been. How nice you are. How many people you have depending on you. It doesn't care who you are. It simply doesn't care.

It doesn't affect everyone the same way. Sometimes it's with you forever. Other times, it sneaks up out of nowhere. For some people, it's manageable. Recoverable. Pop a pill. Talk it out. Breathe. You're you again. For others, it seeps into their pores and coats their lungs like tar. It's not as easy to "perk up" and "be thankful" or even be questioned as to "what do you really have to be depressed about."

It likes to stay hidden in those dark places. The cracks of your mind. The depths of your soul. It whispers to you that if anyone knew, they'd judge you. You'll lose yourself. They'll treat you differently. You'll become a joke. You'll be labeled as someone with a mental illness.

Worse, it will tell you it's not a big deal. Everyone gets sad. It never explains why your soul is dead or why the sadness feels like you're being dragged down a dark tunnel. It doesn't give a timetable as to when it will feel normal again so you can read a book, listen to music, talk to a friend.

It fights you to the end. If you take that medicine, you won't be you. This will never end. I will always be here. There is no way out. Don't even try.

Of course, I can tell you it gets better. That there's help out there. But when you're in the middle of battling depression, those things don't help. For most people suffering with depression, it takes the intervention of a loved one to say, "You need to call and get help right now."

This morning, Kate Concannon, friend and blogger at Life Sucks In A Strapless Bra, asked her readers,
I beg of you to be kind today … and hell, most days.
I ask you, my readers, don't forget to be kind to yourself. If you're battling a demon, don't let it fool you into thinking you're not strong enough. Or that you're ridiculous for taking this so seriously. Or that you shouldn't need help. Don't wait too long and let that demon take hold, because you are too good to not be here.

And if you need some extra words of advice to know you're not alone:
Libra Bray, Miles and Miles of No-Man's Land
Stephanie Perkins, Where I'm At In My Head
Myra McEntire, The Shame of Depression (link is currently down)


  1. Well said, Valerie. 'No one would every say, "You just need to get some sunshine to cure that cancer" or "That schizophrenia would be under control if you got out of bed today." Depression is a disease, and there are ways to treat it.' The same goes for the gamut of mental health issues, including anxiety. I might mention I've struggled with anxiety a lot in the last 6 months to a casual friend, but what I haven't been saying is, "Generalised Anxiety Disorder is *thing*. It's not just me having a downer of a week, or getting some bad news. It's my thoughts insisting on going down paths I don't really want to go. Thank you for discussing this topic respectfully and honestly.

  2. Thanks for this today Valerie. Heartfelt, compassionate, insightful and true.

  3. Valerie, this was so well-expressed, I can't help but thank you for it. My longtime boyfriend suffers from depression often. (He's bi-polar/paranoid/schizophrenic.) It's a struggle and with it comes a tremendous amount of worry and stress. Though I do my best to understand and be patient, it can be difficult, of course, but in a different way than the person actually experiencing it. This helped me understand, even more so, how it feels. The biggest problem is that, when depression is severe and meds and loving, supporting words and encouragement don't penetrate, there is no help other than faith. It's when someone who's in the throes of severe depression is left alone that there's the greatest risk. That's at least how I see it, and it's the most painful part for me because he and I can't live together due to financial reasons.

    It's all tragic and I appreciate your sharing this critical information. Prayers for you in your struggle, too!


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