right now it’s depression awareness week, from april 20-26. reading through twitter and on various websites i observe that our first instinct is to educate the non-depressed about depression. we share facts – one in four people suffer from depression. we fight stigma – depression is a real illness, just like cancer. we encourage support – reach out to someone with depression and let them know you care. our focus is on those who don’t yet understand.
but what does depression awareness week mean to people who live with depression? who do understand? who already know all of the symptoms? who recognize that it is an illness? who are reaching out for support and are undergoing treatment?
we don’t need to be told the facts – we live them. we understand better than anybody else how each symptom of depression changes your life. how feelings of hopelessness can weigh you down. how self loathing can eat you up inside. how the sadness and crying seem like they will never end.
we live with the stigma against depression. we cringe when we hear people say “ugh, that is so depressing” or “if i don’t get this or that i’m just going to kill myself.” the terms “insane asylum” or “loony bin” aren’t acceptable to us. we’ve been told to cheer up, stay positive and snap out of it. we’ve been told it’s all in our heads and that we don’t need pills, we just need fresh air and a pair of running shoes.
we work incredibly hard to stay safe and to recover. we go to therapy. we take medication. we may have been hospitalized. we try yoga, meditation, exercise, special diets, massage, acupuncture – so many alternative treatments because we want to get better that badly.
to me – a person who lives with depression every day – depression awareness week is an opportunity for us to recognize and connect with the humanity in people who have depression.
we are people before we are depression. we are mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and friends. we have jobs. we have pets. we have homes. we are productive. we are creative. we are successful. we are funny. we are sexy. we are smart. we are responsible. we are people. people first.
i don’t want the mental health statistics or quotes. let’s shift the focus. i want to see people with depression included in the conversation about their illness. let’s raise awareness about depression awareness week by engaging with the people who know it best.
we the people. who have depression.