I apologize for my sporadic postings. Besides being physically sick, which is weird in and of itself because I’m constantly fatigued but am peppered with headaches, joint pain, and muscle aches throughout the day in addition to the infection that came back, and I’m also struggling a little bit with depression.
I surprise myself sometimes at how candidly I can speak about BPD and eating disorders, but depression is a different beast. I’ve been so proud, happy, and most of all, grateful that I haven’t been dealing with much of it since last November. Now though, I am kind of falling back into it and it’s a little scary (and honestly, embarrassing) to admit. I know why it’s happening now and at least that’s something. I’m again in a weird limbo phase of no longer a college student, but I haven’t begun my next chapter which will really start when I move in a few weeks.
Summertime is also my most difficult season because of my body image issues. I know I’m not alone in this but it is SO HARD to see “blog talk” and advertisements and such that’s all about running (I really RARELY see bloggers who are “healthy living bloggers” that don’t run) or exercising 5x a week, losing weight, how to cut calories without sacrificing flavor, etc. I think my idea of healthy living and the blog world’s idea of healthy living are just not the same, which is why I’ve decided to stop reading the more popular “HL” blogs that I’ve been following for a while. It’s unusually hard to do this, especially since “blogger” is kind of my primary identity right now.
It’s interesting to me how depression is the most difficult of my “issues” to talk about and I’ve been thinking for days how I wanted to approach the topic on my blog. After all, not only have I lived through a few serious bouts of depression, I just spent the last four months studying depression through a philosophical lens, and now I’m learning about it from a spiritual perspective. If I’m being honest, I know a lot more about depression than I care to, and most of it is from first hand experience.
You can read anything and everything about depression but unless you go through it, you won’t be able to really understand. I imagine the same thing is true for things like cancer and pregnancy. How foolish would it be of me to claim that I know anything about what it’s like to go through either when it’s never happened to me? I think that the reason that depression is one of the more shamed mental illnesses is because although it’s easy to throw around the phrase, “I’m depressed” when you really mean sad, bored, etc., many people perceive it as laziness and not trying hard enough. In other words, it’s a choice.
“I’m suicidal” is not a phrase that’s thrown around as casually as “I’m depressed” and for good reason, but depression is often not taken seriously or loved ones and supports get so frustrated that they can’t help the person suffering that they just don’t know what to do anymore. It is an incredibly difficult thing to go through, no matter what role you play.
According to the World Health Organization, depression affects nearly 121 million people worldwide every year and is among the leading causes of disability (source). Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death of those between the ages of 15 and 24, and the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., while homicide is 15th (source). So basically we have this global mental health crisis with millions of people suffering from depression, and although I don’t have any statistic to back this up, I’d be willing to say a fair percentage of those suffering also have co-morbid disorders such as a mood disorder (like Bipolar), personality disorder (like BPD), eating disorder, or substance abuse problems.
However, and here is where I might get a lot of disagreement, the WHO says that, “Antidepressant medications and brief, structured forms of psychotherapy are effective for 60-80 % of those affected and can be delivered in primary care” (source). Ok so yes, on the one hand, who am I to question the WHO? (Yeah, I had to use the abbreviation) I mean of course if a statistic says that half to most of those with depression can be helped by antidepressants and “brief, structured forms of psychotherapy”, then that must be true, right? To be fair, the WHO also says “fewer than 25 % of those affected (in some countries fewer than 10 %) receive such treatments. Barriers to effective care include the lack of resources, lack of trained providers, and the social stigma associated with mental disorders including depression” (source).
To me there seems like a big discrepancy between the two statements and I have to say (understanding that my own bias created by my own experiences and study of depression undoubtedly impacts this) that I believe the World Health Organization grossly underestimates or at least does not acknowledge the complexities involved in depression. This is not just a psychological illness that can be treated with some pills and “brief, structured” therapy (whatever that vague phrase is supposed to entail). This is a problem with philosophical, biological, sociological, and epistemological roots and without looking at a person as a whole, as someone with predispositions, a history, and a unique, complex life, we are just treating the symptom and not the cause. It’s like taking medication for chronic migraines without trying to find out why you are getting migraines in the first place.
These statistics fail to show for how long an individual must be on medication, if there are relapses (which there often are), the quality of life (does someone go from being depressed to being on a pill and getting a little therapy and then being completely happy and “normal”?), that there is a spectrum of depression (some people experience mild depression while others experience major depressive episodes lasting months or years with suicidal thoughts and possibly actions), as well as how many of those that are “effectively treated” never have problems with depression again. And what does “effectively treated” really mean? They certainly don’t attempt to define this, leaving it open to a lot of (mis)interpretation.
There’s so much more on this topic that I have to say, but I think I’ve said enough for now. It’s too important of an issue to me to just encapsulate in one post, but from my own experience and from my own research, the most important thing I think people need to know about depression is that:
1) It’s not laziness
2) It’s a whole lot more complicated than we are told and than what we think (both the illness and the recovery from it)
If you have made it to the end of this post, I thank you for staying with me. I know this is kind of a wave of information, thoughts, arguments, etc.
I hope you all have a great night and remember to treat yourself kindly.