Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Speaking out about depression

Amidst my musings on various Jewish topics, I'd like to insert a bit of a public service announcement.

The Blogess is (if you couldn't guess) a blogger who has recently gotten some fame in the blogosphere. I find her hysterical, but she's beyond irreverent and completely inappropriate, in terms of her language. If you don't like that kind of thing, please don't click through to anything of hers!

But, one of her most recent posts is incredibly important, because it deals with her depression (about which she has talked freely) and even her self harming behavior (about which she hadn't talked until now). Here's the whole of the first part, in case you don't want to click through:

If you follow me on twitter you already know that I’ve been battling off one of the most severe bouts of depression I’ve ever had.  Yesterday it started to pass, and for the first time in weeks I cried with relief instead of with hopelessness.  Depression can be crippling, and deadly.  I’m lucky that it’s a rare thing for me, and that I have a support system to lean on.  I’m lucky that I’ve learned that depression lies to you, and that you should never listen to it, in spite of how persuasive it is at the time.
When cancer sufferers fight, recover, and go into remission we laud their bravery.  We call them survivors.  Because they are.
When depression sufferers fight, recover and go into remission we seldom even know, simply because so many suffer in the dark…ashamed to admit something they see as a personal weakness…afraid that people will worry, and more afraid that they won’t.  We find ourselves unable to do anything but cling to the couch and force ourselves to breathe.
When you come out of the grips of a depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate.  Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive.  We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker…but as survivors.  Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it.  Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand.
Regardless, today I feel proud.  I survived.  And I celebrate every one of you reading this.  I celebrate the fact that you’ve fought your battle and continue to win.  I celebrate the fact that you may not understand the battle, but you pick up the baton dropped by someone you love until they can carry it again.  I celebrate the fact that each time we go through this, we get a little stronger.  We learn new tricks on the battlefield.  We learn them in terrible ways, but we use them.  We don’t struggle in vain.
We win.
We are alive.

Depression is an evil, insidious, brutal disease. And, it can strike anyone—absolutely anyone. Man, woman. Young, old. Smart, not so smart. Popular, outcast. Anyone.

Someone you work with is struggling with depression.

Someone in your school is struggling with depression.

Someone in your (extended, at least) family is struggling with depression.

All these statements, and countless more like them, are almost undoubtedly true. Depression is all around us, yet somehow it's still not out in the open. Not completely. People feel shame about fighting depression. People feel guilty for suffering it. Like it's a sign of weakness.

It's not weakness. It's a disease.

If you are depressed, or you think you may be, or someone you know and love is—speak up. Reach out. Get help. Tell someone you love. Tell a counselor, or a social worker. A Rabbi, or other clergy. A teacher. A friend. Tell anyone.

No one should have to fight this disease alone. No one does.

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