Stigma is defined as:
A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
And in the Cambridge dictionary as:
My Dear Mum suffered with depression all her life.
She was medicated for as long as I can remember, but people didn’t talk about mental health back then. Instead they would make ignorant and snide remarks often behind people’s backs in an extremely unpleasant way.
This is not a judgement, this is just an observation of fact. Now, I don’t know what it was like to live 70 years ago as a single woman with a young child. The weight of the social burden alone, that my Mum had endured must have been horrific. Then to add to this the stigma of being cast out and disowned by her family as a disgrace.
Frankly, after my Mums death we found out a lot more and I am amazed that she had the COURAGE to soldier through that which she did. (So Mum, if you’re listening: I think you were amazing and I love you).
I myself have experienced this kind of ignorant judgement, though on a far less extreme scale. Nonetheless the words that some people use can be terribly hurtful when you are vulnerable.
“Pull yourself together”
“Sweep it under the carpet”
“Oh bloody hell people are getting counselling for all sorts of things these days”
“What’s wrong with him, I don’t know what his bloody problem is!?”
“What a wimp”
Now interestingly ignorance, defined is:
Lack of knowledge or information.
In this regard there is not a living soul on this planet that isn’t ignorant, for no one knows everything do they? So my use of the word ignorant is used in factual terms and not in judgemental terms.
I do wonder, then, is it the “Jurors that are the cowards or the person LIVING with depression?”
On some other occasions where I have tried to talk openly and honestly to friends and family about my state of mind or feelings, their response has been:
“You’re not to talk about that”
“I don’t ever want to hear you say that again”
“Think of all the people in your life who love you”
“How can you be so selfish?”
I recall talking with a friend some time ago, who had attempted suicide.
She recalled how she was ostracized as a result of her actions and how people had labelled her as “selfish”.
I would challenge this perception of selfishness.
You see, for me, on contemplating suicide very seriously, my thoughts were the following:
I had fought a long fight and gone to such extreme lengths, as to actually selling the clothes off my back on one occasion, so that I could feed my children. I had been financially raped by the Canadian justice system and the idiots therein, and ultimately denied access to my children in my post matrimonial life.
I determined that if I was not around then my children would never have to question the biased influences that they are under. I furthered, that if any of these dear folks had to make a decision that was in the interest of their offspring as opposed to a Brother/Sister/Best Friend, then they would rightly choose what was best for their children.
This was exactly my position.
I actually talked this through with my Sister, Brother and closest Friend and to some extent, at least, they understood and actually, on differing levels agreed with me.
THE IGNORANCE OF JUDGEMENT
Another friend, who also had attempted suicide, after having their stomach pumped, was talked to extremely sternly by a healthcare professional and told “you’re just attention seeking!!”
I still have some degree of incredulity and acceptance about the way attitudes towards mental health were, and still are too many people.
The first time I admitted myself to hospital I was in for 4 weeks, and I made it clear I didn’t want any visitors. My way of dealing with this “stigma” was to study the hell out of it, learn as much as I could, read and research as much as I could get my hands on to understand what the hell was happening to me.
I know, my Mum didn’t even know what depression (even though she had been suffering with it for 70 years) was, and certainly would not have EVER spoken about it.
When I came out of hospital, I remember clearly as day, I went and visited my Mum and Dad, and sitting down over a cuppa, I explained that I had been in hospital and was suffering with depression.
My dear Mum immediately became very defensive – “Well I don’t know where you got that from, it certainly wasn’t from my side of the family!!!”…..and she was serious too.
GOOD DAYS AND BAD DAYS
I make no secrets of the “wars” that I have fought with depression – they go on almost every day. I once proffered “depression – worse for the sufferer or the loved ones” – my depression must cause terrible worry for my adult friends.
I still have good days and bad days and will do so for the rest of my life. Over the last 25 years I have tried almost every kind of talking therapy and many prescription drugs, I have abstained from alcohol for years, exercised 3 hours, 6 days a week, for 10 years, meditated, taken yoga classes, studied the subject of mental health and the chemistry of the brain and have eaten all the foods and known nutrition to help alleviate my condition, and yet here I am – still as messed up as ever!!
So now, my only company in the darkest caves of my mind, is my passion for writing and music.
If I could wish just one thing for all you who suffer with depression, it would be that you find a PASSION or “companion” as I have in music and writing.
God bless you all, be that Allah, Christ, Buddha, Brahman, Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonai, or any other particular higher power (my genuine apologies if I have not mentioned your own faiths deity).
With love, peace, hope