Tag Archives: stigma

10 Depression Symptom Analogies For Those Who Have Trouble Understanding

If others don’t believe you when you are certain you speak the truth, if you get blamed for something you know is not your fault, if no matter how many times you try explaining something the person just doesn’t get it, how does it make you feel?

Pretty frustrated, I’m sure.

Sadly, this is the case for many who suffer mental illness, like depression. Imagine being accused of creating your own illness with your negative attitude, laziness, or self pity. It’s pretty awful. Those with depression long to be believed, long to be understood. Depression is NOT a feeling. It’s a very real disease, and I’m going to attempt to describe it to you with some analogies below.

10 Depression Symptom Analogies To Help You Understand:

1.) Irritability (The Sandpaper Bed)

You stand beside your bed. It looks cozy and inviting. You climb in and are startled by the feel of the sheets on your skin. They are rough, like sandpaper. Your pillow is hard as a rock. You roll over, nothing changes. The sandpaper sheets hurt your skin, the rock pillow makes your head hurt. This is what irritability is like. You know you should not be bothered, but everything annoys you, angers you, makes you very uncomfortable. You wish with all of your might you could relax and feel peaceful, but it just won’t happen. You want to explode at everyone around you, but you hold it in as best you can. You press on, try to appear normal. Like a night spent in the sandpaper bed would be, it’s totally exhausting.

2.) Empty/Numb (The Worst Comedy Show Ever)

Depression frequently makes you feel…absolutely nothing at all. Imagine you’re at a comedy show, but you’re the only one who finds nothing funny about it. Everyone else cracks up laughing at jokes that evoke no response in you at all. You wish you could enjoy yourself as they are, but your heart and mind are void of all feeling, You throw back a few drinks, to try to ignite a spark of life within you, to no avail. You just want to go home so you can stop pretending you actually feel something other than numbness. Depression often makes you feel as though someone has reached in and ripped your soul out of your body. It’s not fun.

3.) Extreme Fatigue (the 500 lb lead weight suit)

Picture yourself wearing full body armour made of lead. You try to go about your daily activities, but every movement requires tremendous effort. You want to move. You try your best to move. It’s just completely exhausting. No matter how hard you try, you seem unable to take off your lead body armour. It only removes itself when it feels like it.

4.) Self Loathing (tied with a rope to someone you really dislike)

What if that person you can’t stand being around, that person you have a hard time finding good qualities in, that person you just can’t seem to like was tied to you with a 3 foot long rope for an entire day? “No way in hell,” you are probably thinking. Well, if you suffer depression, that person is tied to you permanently. That person is yourself. It is a very sad, but very true reality of depression. The majority of the time during a depressive episode the sufferer thinks very negatively about themselves, and they might even have feelings of self hatred.

5.) Guilt (A body covered in long whiskers that bug everyone around you.)

Imagine you walk through the mall, or attend a family function, and all of a sudden your body grows huge, prickly whiskers that poke at everyone around you. You’d feel the need to apologize an awful lot. You’d probably feel pretty bad. Guilty. Guilty for being your prickly, whiskery self. Depression doesn’t make a person grow whiskers of course, but it certainly brings on constant, tremendous feelings of guilt. It makes you feel as though you are letting everyone down, that everyone is annoyed at, or disappointed by you.

6.) Physical Discomfort (The Constant Hangover)

Headache. Body Aches. Joint Pain. Nausea. Dizziness. If it gets bad enough, depression makes you feel like you have a constant hangover. If you haven’t experienced a hangover, think of how you feel when you are coming down with the flu. Many cases of depression/anxiety are diagnosed only after the patient has sought medical help for physical symptoms.( I myself was one of those cases.) Those “Depression Hurts” commercials do not lie.

7.) Confusion (partially soundproof, translucent glass box.)

If you spent an hour surrounded by glass that was hard to see through, hard to hear through and tried to go about life as usual, things would get pretty darn confusing. Depression often feels exactly like this. Focusing on anything becomes very hard. You find yourself holding your head in your hands all the time. Your vision literally blurs, and you have a hard time understanding what anyone is talking to you about. This confusion just increases other symptoms, like irritability and fatigue.

8.) Strong Desire to Hide (avoiding a telemarketer who is always callng)

You know that feeling you have when you see a telemarketer’s number on the call display? Someone with depression feels this way pretty much all of the time. They don’t want to answer the phone, or the door. They don’t want to go get groceries, they don’t want to go to your party. All they really want to do is hide under the covers and stop pretending everything is alright. They want to hide away so they can be depressed without fear of judgement, or feelings of guilt.

9.) Dread (a colonoscopy is looming, every minute of every day)

I think it’s safe to say nobody out there looks forward to the day they need a colonoscopy. When you suffer depression, you always feel like something unpleasant lies in the near future. Dread. Dread for reasons you can’t explain. In fact, knowing the dread was caused by an approaching colonoscopy would probably be an improvement over the nonspecific, sinking, scared feeling you often wake with, eat lunch with, go to bed with when you suffer from depression.

10.) Hopeless/Trapped (drowning)

Imagine you are trapped in a tank of deep water. You tread water for a long time. You start getting tired. You aren’t sure how much longer you’ll be able to keep your head above water. You try to stay afloat, try to conserve your energy and pray someone will come along and help you. Time ticks on. You are so tired. You sink below the surface, hold your breath for as long as you can. Nobody is coming to save you because nobody notices you need help. Desperately, you pull to the surface, gasp for air, sink back down again. You aren’t going to make it. You have lost all hope.

Depression is a very lonely, often desperate battle to feel alive.

But it doesn’t have to be lonely.

It doesn’t have to be hopeless.

There is plenty of help available for those suffering depression. They just need to feel comfortable enough to seek it out. All of the stigma, the fear, the lack of empathy and understanding toward mental illness in our society needs to end.

The best thing you can do for someone with depression is let them know you believe them, and you are not afraid to talk with them about it openly and honestly.

You can be that arm that pulls them out of that tank of deep water with a few powerful words.

“I am here for you.”

“I am listening.”

” I believe you.”

 

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Thanks so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk.

If All Illness Was Treated As Mental Illness Is

If all illness was treated as mental illness is; with prejudice, with lack of empathy, with frustration and fear, how very sad and lonely this world would be.

We’d have T.V shows that make freak show spectacles of sick people. Perhaps we’d have one for people with arthritis and call it “Shakers.” Or one for men with prostate cancer called “Urinators.” How about one for those with A.L.S called “My Strange Condition”?  Just like in the real shows, “Hoarders” and “My Strange Addiction”, the audience would sit back and laugh, judge, be entertained by the suffering of others.

Similarily to when some call those with mental illness “psycho” and “crazy”, they’d call people with cancer “mutants” and those who have suffered strokes “deformed”.

They would have the same level of insensitivity for those entering palliative care as they do for those entering psychiatric care, and say they were sent to the “death house” and the “nut house”, respectively.

If someone were to splurge and eat too much sugar, they’d say “go inject yourself with insulin ” the same way they tell people who are upset to “take a pill”.

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, we’d have a hard time believing that anyone actually gets sick. We’d accuse them of seeking attention, of being weak, of making excuses.

We’d yell with frustration at someone with multiple sclerosis, “Just stop sitting in your wheelchair and walk!”

We’d roll our eyes if someone called in sick for the flu. We’d whisper to each other that they need to toughen up. Suck it up. And if this person with the “flu” was a man, our reaction would be even stronger. We would think he was downright pathetic.

If all illness was treated like mental illness is, we’d be baffled every day by deaths we just didn’t see coming. After living months, or years hiding symptoms, pretending they didn’t feel pain, loved ones would succumb to suffering we likely would not have been able to handle or understand anyway.

Not long after their passing, we’d start making comments about how selfish they had been. How could they do this to us? How could they just up and die like that?

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, how (even more) sad, lonely, cruel this world would be.

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Thank you so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

What Social Anxiety Feels Like: “The Grocery Store”

I lie face down on a sunny patch on John’s man room carpet.  I massage my forehead, to try to relieve the dull ache.  Dora The Explorer plays upstairs, as Megan enjoys her quiet time. Over the baby monitor, I hear Tara roll over and sigh dreamily.

My whole body hurts, as if I’m coming down with the flu. I’m so tired of feeling like this, I really need to call the doctor about adjusting my medication.  I’ve been telling myself this for weeks now. Maybe on Monday I will be brave and actually call.

“So are you ready to go?” John crouches down and rubs my back. I blink back tears. He doesn’t notice.

“Yep.” As I struggle to my feet, my thoughts flash from a facebook “some cards” joke (Motherhood: when a trip to the grocery store alone is like going on vacation.) to a vision of stabbing myself in the stomach. I am so incredibly weak, and so pathetically selfish. (What is wrong with you? You have two beautiful daughters, a loving husband. You better start enjoying them, start enjoying life, or something is going to happen to take it all away. Grave illness. Car accident. Divorce. And you will deserve it.)

I slip into my coat, put my hands in my pockets, grip my hand sanitizers. One for each hand. They give me a brief moment of comfort.

“Have fun,” John chuckles and kisses my cheek.

“Thanks,” I manage a smile, and head out into blinding white.

In the car I turn the music on full blast, because after all, I can. I sing along. I take deep breaths. I mutter a few prayers that the girls will be safe while I’m gone.

As I drive into the parking lot, my stomach sinks and my heart starts beating faster.  I feel angry, and at the same time I feel guilty for feeling angry. Saturday. Far too many people here. I contemplate going right back home, but I cant. We need food, damn it.

I speed walk into the store. I try to breathe slowly, to relieve my increasing dizziness. As I frantically manoeuvre my cart through the produce section, flashing polite/ apologetic smiles at the other shoppers, I realize I am much better off when I bring the girls with me.  They help me stay focused. They help me see through the fog that now clouds my brain.  They give me someone to talk to. They make me brave. Right now, I am scared. Scared I will run into someone with my cart. Scared the women with highlighted hair and stylish boots look down upon my Joe Fresh jogging pants. Scared I will catch a disease from opening fridge doors.  Scared everyone can tell I feel like I’m going to pass out.

As  I race for the aisle with the laundry detergent, I long for my precious daughters to be here with me.  Saying hi to the old ladies and making them smile. Dropping stuff on the floor. I wish I could breathe in the scent of baby shampoo from their hair, kiss their foreheads. Ironically, this would be for my own reassurance.

Mercifully, I make it to the checkout line without losing consciousness. I take some deep breaths, silently say a few prayers for protection against the grocery store germs as I wait.

A pretty blond woman and her two teenage sons are waiting in line behind me. They see someone they know the next line over and start chatting. Everyone else around us who waits seems impatient, or perhaps it is just me.

My turn comes. I catch my breath as the service clerk who helps bag the groceries goes on break before helping me.  There are a lot of people waiting behind me. I must get my groceries bagged. Fast. My hands tremble. My armpits sweat. The cashier starts helping me bag the groceries, and for some reason this embarrasses me. The pretty blond lady and her sons, preoccupied by their conversation, have advanced too far in line, and block the interac machine. One of the teenage sons hovers over me as I clumsily stuff groceries into bags. I am on the verge of panicking.

I awkwardly ask ask the mother with twins to back up so I can pay. I’m so dizzy, it’s as if I am drunk.

“Hey, no problem at all. It’s all good.” The teenage boy who had been hovering gives me a sincere smile. He’s a lovely young man, and he’s my undoing. I stare through my tears at the pin pad.  It takes an eternity for the payment to go through.  I want to smile at the pretty blond woman and her sons as I leave, but I fear my tears will overflow. I look down, and briskly push my cart away.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Suck it Up

“There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need counselling. You just need to start eating. Stop being so stupid. ”

“Yeah, he’s on stress leave. Pathetic.”

“Maybe you should stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

“If she’s not going to call us back, whatever, forget her. I don’t care if she’s depressed, calling someone back is pretty simple. She needs to stop making lame excuses.”

“You’re doing this to yourself. Stop being so negative.”

“I’ve been through worse in my life, but I’m not depressed. It’s life, you just accept it. Suck it up.”

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This moment, countless people suffering mental illness are hearing these kinds of statements. Perhaps this makes them feel like it’s their fault. Perhaps they feel weak. Perhaps they feel guilty. Perhaps they feel inadequate.

Definitely they no longer feel comfortable talking.

Talking is the most affective way a person with mental illness can help themselves.

Talking is their best hope.

Stigma steals that away.

Mental illness is real. It gets diagnosed by doctors, just like diabetes, asthma, the flu.
Mental illness can destroy relationships and families.
Mental illness can leave a person living on the streets.
Mental illness can kill.
Yes, mental illness can kill.
Technically I suppose, suicide is a choice a person makes. But it’s a choice they make because the inner torment they suffer is too much, and they see no other escape. Suicide is a symptom of mental illness.
Suicide is a symptom of complete isolation.

Isolation made far worse by stigma.

“You’re doing this to yourself.”

“Stop being so negative.”

“Suck it up.”

Nobody would ever dream of saying this to someone with cancer. Why do so many of us think it’s okay to speak like that to someone with mental illness?

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“How are you feeling today?”

“You are so strong for fighting this battle.”

“He’s on stress leave. It must be really bad. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.”

“It’s okay to cry. I’m here for you. Im here to listen if you’d like.”

“I believe you. I also believe you can beat this.”

“Don’t give up.”

These are the kind of words that fight stigma.

These are the kind of words that give hope.

These are the kind of words that can save lives.

Thanks for reading!
Be Brave and Talk
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