Depression: The Greatest Character Defect of All


Some poll somewhere said that 60 percent of the public would opt to elect a convicted child molester as president over an atheist.

I’m sure the same is true about a person who takes antidepressant. Or suffers from depression, for that matter.

I heard all the biases and discriminations, the opinions and attitudes about those who don’t have the strength or character to get their crap together during the two years of pure hell it took me to recover from my most severe mental breakdown. I heard it all.

Yes, antidepressants prevent a person from doing the real work that he needs to do to heal and move on. Happy pills are certainly a lazy man’s way of making the ouches go away; they dull the pain so that he doesn’t know what he is feeling or why, and can therefore go on living completely separated to wrestling and inner struggle he should be doing if he wants to learn how to handle his emotions.

The pharmaceutical cocktails kill personalities, flatten all character or effervescence that comprise a person’s DNA, and destroy the artistic or creative flair in each of us. We become a version of flat Stanley … technically there … but unable to take anything in or, well, breathe.

I am used to all this talk. I’m so used to it that I forget how often I have to disregard it and try like hell not to let the toxic stuff get in. But damn, it sure is damaging when you’re in a bad place.

The last two weeks have been the white-knuckle kind where I am lucky if I can make it two hours without crying. The anxiety is so acute that I am tempted to grab a paper bag to steady my breath and make trips out to my car to get it together at work. I am begging God to take me out of this world with as much fervor as my kids trash our house. I want to throw things—pointed, sharp objects–at people who wear “Life Is Good” t-shirts, and the next time I hear “life is a gift,” I want to do something harmful to myself because I feel so bad, so guilty, so self-absorbed for not thinking the same.

Today I heard a woman say that she would never give her son medication for his depression because 1) it would make him suicidal, 2) it thwarts the progress of what needs to happen in learning how to master emotions, 3) it’s an unnatural element that is toxic to his health, 4) it would kill his personality.

“Sometimes it can be helpful,” I said, and ran to the bathroom where I erupted into tears. On a good day, I could possibly walk away and know that she has an opinion different than mine. Especially if I had my imaginary shield up. On a bad day? Not a chance. I’m retraining my thoughts every five seconds as it is, reassuring myself that I am not a pathetic bonehead. A comment like that is one more vote for the bonehead. In one minute, that’s seven against two.

Yesterday a friend of a friend was found dead, keeled over, at work. I asked her if it was possibly suicide.

“No,” she said. “He gives back to his community. People who commit suicide tend to stay within themselves.”

Really? Is that how people with depression are perceived? I knew the lazy and weak part. But I didn’t realize the self-absorbed component. I wanted to explain that I had spent a month in India, much of it working with Mother Teresa, and that I was actually suicidal for two years.

But she would never believe me.

One third of this country drinks too much alcohol and smokes pot.

But that’s okay.

It’s socially acceptable, and we can talk about it at the pool or at school or on the sidelines of a lacrosse game. Now what happens when a woman sobers up, starts dealing with her issues, and finds out that she has a very serious mood disorder that requires medication? FREAK. Weak. Lazy. Self-absorbed.

I don’t just take drugs. I work harder on my mental health than any other component in my life. I swim, pray, and meditate most days before 8:30. I take fish oil and every natural supplement for my mood I can get my hands on. I sit under a mammoth HappyLite. I haven’t drank alcohol in 23 years. I work with a therapist/psychiatrist. I keep a mood journal. I retrain my thoughts and engage in cognitive behavioral therapy. No one can say that I take the easy way out.

However, I can count on one hand the number of people I can talk to about my mood. I know from past experience that if I go through a bad spell, most people assume it’s the antidepressants … that I chose the easy way, I didn’t get to the root of my anguish, so I will keep on relapsing – a result of the quick fix I had hoped to get.

So instead of picking up the phone and hearing someone insinuate that I’m bringing it all on, I thought I would write about it. For you. So YOU know that you’re not pathetic. You’re not taking the easy way out. You have some colorful wiring in that brain of yours. And that’s hard stuff to deal with. It’s really, really, really hard stuff. And it has nothing to do with a defect of character.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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