“Do you WANT to get better?” a family member asked me a few weeks after I graduated from the psych ward in 2005.
I was furious and hurt.
Because it was just one of many insensitive comments that seem to imply that I was causing my illness.
So when a woman in the online depression support group that I moderate recently said that HER THERAPIST asked her that same question, I immediately consoled her and told her that I thought that was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG for a mental health professional to ask that.
But my opinion wasn’t unanimous in the group.
Some thought the question was reasonable to ask, as it prods a person to the appropriate steps of action.
One woman cited a blog post called, “It’s Easier to Stay Depressed?” which argued that it takes an incredible amount of drive and energy to do all the things a person has to do to get well, and sometimes it’s easier to stay depressed. Another person confessed to hiding behind her illness at times and thought we all do to a certain extent.
What a terrible thing to say to some one! Mental Health is treated so badly by people that don’t understand, its such a shame. I wish it was easier to help people understand. Of Mental Health was one of the big physical illnesses like cancer, for example, would anyone ask that? I doubt it! I don’t think it’s about “getting better” sometimes, I think it’s about learning to deal with depression in your own way (or with the help of others.)
I’m enjoying reading your blog, its really inspiring me to write more on my own!
Awful lot of self-flagellation here – wonder where you got that message?! I cannot believe you were walking around with a boulder in your sneaker. It is also so easy for me to say ‘be kinder to yourself’ when I’m guilty of the same (minus the kale smoothies ack!)
Yes, well, remember I’m Catholic! 🙂 Kale is good with pineapple!!
h, Therese, I can’t believe you do so much and yet have to struggle with death thoughts. You are way too hard on yourself. Are you sure that all those foods are the culprits? Do you even realize how incredibly strong willed and disciplined you are? I mean wow. I don’t do any of those things.
I’m curious, have you ruled out drug side effects? There is a forum, called SurvivingAntidepressants.com that alerts, educates, and helps people get off of psychiatric drugs safely, since for a lot of us, these drugs and the withdrawal from them have actually caused or exacerbated mental illness.
However, the woman who runs the site, Altostrata, does not subscribe to the chemical imbalance theory, and seem quite close-minded. She actually said, “Depression is a mood.” I was furious. (See my response below)
I have been blamed for my depression and state of mind over and over, despite the overwhelming evidence of all the things I have tried to do to help myself. To continually be labeled as weak, lazy, unpleasant, negative, etc. is so incredibly hurtful. Especially since, we are probably some of the emotionally strongest people around. But yes, I guess none of us, even the ones who have suffered with mental illness, don’t really believe that we have an illness. The words “mental illness” makes you think of weird crazy people in an insane asylum – who wants to be associated with that? Also, acknowledging something as an illness, takes away some of the control that we think we have over it. I really wonder, if you didn’t do all of the things you’re doing, if you’d be much worse of. Personally, I noticed that a happy mood doesn’t depend on anything that I do or don’t do, or on any circumstances. Because some days I’ll wake up and feel perfectly happy and content, without any change in my environment, circumstance, or action. I can only assume that it’s the ebb and flow of various hormones and biochemical processes that are responsible.
What is your take on the whole biology vs psychology concept?
Depression is a mood? Wow. With a single statement you have just invalidated the experience of life-long sufferers of persistent and/or treatment resistant depression. It is also quite obvious that you personally have not experienced clinical depression. By calling depression a mood, you are just perpetuating and contributing to the stigma that millions of us have had to endure our entire lives, as people blame us for a disease that we have no more control over, than a person who has lupus.
Depression is NOT a mood, it is not sadness, it is not something a person can snap out of or will away by positive thinking or doing affirmations. Depression is an emotional black hole, filled with crushing despair and hopelessess, that often comes even when a person’s life is perfectly fine if not great. Frankly Altostrata, I would expect a much more educated point of view from you.
As for the biological aspect of depression and other mental illness, while it may not be as simple as a deficiency or imbalance of neurotransmitters, Human Beings are biological biochemical physical beings whose every system is influenced by hormonal variations, cell communication, genetics, etc.
The article below, while admitting that the chemical imbalance theory is old news, a neuroscientist points out that nevertheless, depression, like every other DISEASE is a combination of many factors, both biological and psychological.
“In reality, however, depression cannot be boiled down to an excess or deficit of any particular chemical or even a suite of chemicals. “Chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that,” neuroscientist Joseph Coyle of Harvard Medical School was quoted as saying in a blog by National Public Radio’s Alix Spiegel.
Indeed, it is very likely that depression stems from influences other than neurotransmitter abnormalities. Among the problems correlated with the disease are irregularities in brain structure and function, disturbances in neural circuitry, and various psychological contributions, such as life stressors. Of course, all these influences ultimately operate at the level of physiology, but understanding them requires explanations from other vantage points.”
Thanks. I will check it out. I worked with a holistic doctor some and am trying to go down on as much medication as possible. Because I am bipolar, I’m not sure if it safe to go totally off. I may also try TMS.
I recently tried Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation for a month and a half, but haven’t seen any effect. CES has mostly been studied with the AlphaStim device. But I bought a much cheaper TENS unit that has a Microcurrent setting. Maybe I should give it more time. Some people report improvement and relief with such units. A more affordable option is the BioTuner by Sota, which is a dedicated CES unit. Lots of reviews on that one as well.
Thank you for addressing this. I have been asked by so many professionals what benefit I get out of being depressed. There seems to be this theory that maladaptive behavior is perpetuated because it serves some function. Nobody can seem to agree whether depression is an illness, like cancer, or a behavior, like laziness. And after all that questioning, I still don’t have an answer to their questions. What benefit to I gain from physical and psychological torture? Maybe it gives me an opportunity to shirk from responsibilities. Maybe it gives me a chance to justify resting or sleeping a lot. Maybe I won’t be held accountable for my behavior, if I’m depressed.
Only…I would prefer to have responsibilities, sleep only at night, and be held more accountable if I could relinquish what you term the “death thoughts”. If I had a choice, I’d press the humanity button in an instant…the one where my reactions are so reasonably measured that I actually feel like a relatable human being instead of this emotionally twisted sub-human creature.
I enjoy going on here and reading these articles when I feel so isolated in my illness that I feel like I can’t talk to anyone. I go through my phone and realize there is not one single number I could use where the voice on the other end doesn’t sound completely puzzled by the intensity of my emotions. My therapist said I was “inconsolably hopeless” today. I want to believe that there’s hope. I do. It’s just been such a long, hard ten-year struggle with my bipolar illness. Just when I think I’m managing it, something happens and I stumble again.
At least reading these articles I know I’m not alone. Some days I just feel so set apart from humanity. Like, how is it that other humans function on a daily basis? How do people reign in their reactions and emotions?
I’m listening to this podcast by Dr. Candice Esposito, who discusses “death thoughts” saying that it’s a conundrum because all you want by thinking these things is relief from your mood disorder…only you have to be alive to feel the feeling of relief. I cling onto that, some days it’s the only thing I can hold onto. My friend Annie took her own life a few weeks ago. It was really sad, because she was really struggling, and that how it ended…her story never reconciled itself, it just ended. So I try to hold onto those things, particularly when I’m feeling alone in my struggles. I try to read about other people who might understand.
So please keep writing.
The question of ‘do you want to get better’ for me is usually followed by the realisation that when I am better I’m setting myself up for a next episode. That fear makes it harder, because I don’t want to be let down again.
[…] what people need. It can lead us to make insensitive comments — “are you sure you want to get better?” — and to be dismissive of a disease that is actually devastating and really […]