Posted in Of Writingly

Of Writing About Depression

machine-writing-1035292_960_720
Writing

Tell me honestly, do you think of a person differently when they admit to having suffered from depression?

Because, most people do.

They may look at you with pity and compassion. Or, they may patronize you. Some even betray looks of glee, cynicism and discomfort. They look at you with a filter that has so far only been described as stigma, but I’d say it is in the nature of all prejudice – fear of the unknown. You keep away from it, because you don’t understand it.

I wrote a book based on this blog from June to October last year. I wanted to release it in October, but wasn’t sure of it. I kept it aside. I went back to the manuscript last month. It is a compilation of essays, some tried and tested here, some unseen. I discuss diverse topics here, but had reasoned (to myself) that the book, at least, should have a connective theme running through it. The theme I chose was ‘existential crisis’. Not the defining thread of this blog in the two years that I’ve been writing it, but a repetitive one. I was surprised by how much of that I had worked into my essays. It almost read like a plea for help, even though I wasn’t asking for help.

Since then, I’ve been debating whether I should leave the ‘depression’ essays out. My reasons are:

1. This book is intentioned for those who don’t read my blog. This includes family, friends, strangers, anyone and everyone who’d express interest in wanting to read a book by me. Whether we admit it or not, we always look at books with a pair of critical eyes. Even if we’re reading a non-fic on someone’s struggle with something, we’re still looking at elements like credibility, expression, not to mention the judgements we form on anybody writing about themselves. That is not the book I am writing. I am writing a book as a creative expression, not to work out my life, or put my feelings in words. I’m not passing any judgement on those who do, but it is not what I set out to do. Not right now.

2. It might be the only thing people take away from the book, and it might become the only thing that people think of me as a writer. Depression won’t just be something I’ve suffered from, it might become the thing I’m pigeonholed into. Positively or not. I’m bound to have some readers who won’t enjoy my book, but I’d rather they didn’t enjoy the book because it was badly written, than because I wrote badly about things that matter to me. On the other hand, if I wrote well, I’d have to face heightened interest, the kind of interest that would be legitimate in someone who is a professional, like a doctor or a therapist, or someone prominent in public life, who has things to say about the subject. I don’t. I only sometimes write about my experiences and ideas on it, but I’m not an expert. I have more questions than answers, and it is not a subject I am particularly curious about, but it is one among many.

3. Most of all, my life is my business. No one, whether I know them personally or not, is allowed to critique any aspect of it, ever. I have considered removing all depression-related essays from this blog, simply because I am not as anonymous as I used to be before. I’ve made friends here, and removed much of the anonymity as I felt safer to share my self more. I’ve NEVER written about my personal life, and I never will. People in my life do not read my blog, but it is not an open secret anymore, especially with a book on the horizon. I’ve never earned a dime from this blog, but I know it is a commodity. It is a consumable object, every word written here has helped me further in devising a book that shall be for sale. But, my life, my emotions, are not a commodity.

I have considered putting all my depression-related essays together as a PDF on my blog here, so that anybody who is interested can download them for free. I am not ashamed of having suffered from anxiety and depression, or talking about it with someone who can relate to it. But, I have a lot of hurt, a number of painful experiences that have caused it, hurt which I haven’t overcome. I can imagine a delightful, little, negative review on Amazon going, “What unreadable drivel. Couldn’t get through the long paragraphs. Who does she think she is, Oprah? One star, and that’s me being generous.” Which would be fine by me, because that is the comfort of strangers – they don’t know you.

Therefore, I would be grateful if you could answer the question: Do you think of a person differently when they admit to having suffered from depression? I am not fishing for comments or likes here. The feedback could really help me.

Author:

Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

24 thoughts on “Of Writing About Depression

  1. I certainly do think of a person differently! But now it is with compassion and empathy because I have finally gotten a diagnosis for what I felt I’d had all along: major depressive disorder. Before I might have felt sorry for someone with depression. Now I feel kinship. I know their suffering (at least in part). Yes, the stigma is still out there, and I don’t announce my depression to anyone. (Only my wife knew until my son found my pills and chatted it up with my other children.) But anyone with depression (or any mental health issue) will NOT fear stigma from me.

    1. Thank you very much for sharing! I think it is the difference between feeling shame and maintaining your privacy, isn’t it? I am glad you were finally able to get a diagnosis. Better late than never, eh? Even recognition feels like a step towards getting better. And I am glad that it makes you feel a kinship towards others who are in a similar position, instead of denial, as many fearing the stigma do. I’ve had so many people sharing their experiences with me over the course of writing this blog, that I feel it would be cowardly and unfair of me to not deal with some of it in the blog’s representative book. Thank you again for your feedback!

  2. Short answer to the question-Yes I do.

    Longer answer, yes I do because I have a caring (some have said, too caring nature). I also get too wrapped up in worrying about the response I give in any situation and have been known to apologize for an apology. I have tried to no longer do that, and I would hate for my actions to ever be viewed as condescending, but the truth is when friends, co-workers, or anybody else I know say they either are feeling depressed or have struggled with it before I do think of them differently. In my own head I’m trying to be empathetic, supportive, and helpful, but I fear that for the person going through it, my actions may not be. Feeling depressed? Oh here’s a great joke I heard….that sort of thing. As if a mere 30 second joke and a chuckle will cure someone of depression. Those were the types of things I have done in the past, but now I just try to be there for the person. Just let them know they can always talk to me. I think your idea here is sound, and I like the idea of the downloadable PDF for those related essays, and having your book be about your other (excellent) posts.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Robert! I’ve more or less purged my manuscript or come up with alternatives for most of the problematic sections, but there is one essay I feel I should keep. Sometimes, I feel is it worth the hassle, especially for people who wouldn’t be understanding. And then I think it would be cowardly and unfair of me not to include it, because why should I care what certain people think? As that Swiftian pop philosophy goes, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate…” Sometimes I do wonder, is it possible to live without some inappropriate behaviour or remarks from people? Nope, it is not. But, you have to get on with things, don’t you?

      Speaking more practically, I think I will do the free PDF. I don’t think my mental health posts provide any answers, but they at least raise some questions. And there’s a value in that too, isn’t there? Thank you again for your feedback!

      1. I think what you say makes complete sense about the one essay. Its also perhaps a useful reference to the fact that you are a multifaceted writer, focused on several ideas. As to is it possible to live without remarks like that, I also agree. There is always someone who will not be tuned in to your emotion or feelings. Maybe they are being cynical, maybe they are just being a smartass, maybe they legitimately think you are wrong. But no matter what there will always be someone who makes a remark like that. I’m glad if my feedback helped in any way. I hesitated whether you wanted a lengthier explanation to your specific question, so figured I would answer it two ways!

      2. And I appreciate both replies! All the comments I’ve received have really helped. I’ve been debating over this for months. Therefore, I’m grateful to have received arguments for both sides.

  3. I think one of my fears to admitting I have suffered and still do suffer from depression, is that a person may say to me: “So you’re sad, huh? What is so bad in your life that you can’t get out of bed in the mornings?” And I wouldn’t have an answer for them, because there has been nothing really bad that has ever happened to me. Yet, I’m still sad. And there are times where I feel like I can’t move, because the sadness becomes too much. And to try and explain that to someone who has never experienced depression can be tough. It’s the same with my OCD. My OCD causes me to do some really weird shit. And through the years I have become a little more vocalized about it, and have been amazed when others say they can relate or know someone in their life who has it too. I certainly think talking about mental illnesses can be a good thing because it makes others more aware about it, but it can be a struggle to get to that point where one feels comfortable enough with someone to talk about it and not feel judged. Hope that makes sense. And I’ll end this here because I seem to be writing you a book! ~Tamara ❤

    1. Ha ha, thanks for sharing, Tamara! As someone who doesn’t personally know you, my idea of you is – wonderful mother, endearing blog, kind, thoughtful, friendly person with a sense of humour. Now, when you share about your OCD, the first thought that strikes me is, “Ooh, that’s tough. How does she deal with it?” I don’t have OCD, do not know anybody diagnosed with OCD, and whatever superficial knowledge I have about it, only makes me wonder how difficult it must be to live with. But, it doesn’t take away from any of the things I thought of you before, nor does it become the only thing I think about when conversing with you here. There is a lot of stigma (I wrote a post specifically on the stigma around OCD and depression. Here’s the link if you’re interested: https://ofopinions.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/negative-aspects-of-mental-illness-awareness/) but just talking about it, even listening to others sharing their experiences, just makes someone feel less alone. I think that was the impulse I felt that made me want to talk about it here – reading other people’s stories.

      There, I seem to have written a book to you too!

  4. I’d like to say I don’t but I’d imagine I do think of them differently.
    The biggest difference I’d say would be quite positive though – if someone tells me about their experiences with depression, I admire them that much more as I know that sort of disclosure takes a lot of courage.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Geoff! I am glad to be receiving comments such as yours here. I feel it would be cowardly and unfair of me to not include some of the mental health stuff in the blog-book. I will be reconsidering it. Thank you again!

      1. Thank you, Geoff. I just want it to be good. I know it won’t be perfect, but I just want it to have some value. It would be a HUGE relief to get it off my chest and ‘out’ there, an idea culminating after 3-4 years!

  5. I have been diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder, (manic depression). I was going to write “I am used to people’s reactions” but, I`m not. Everyone is different. I really liked what you said about it being your life and I think you have answered the question with that sentence. It is your life and to put it out there for all to see is a serious business. So, if you don`t want people outside the blog world to know, then it is very important that you listen to that voice and don`t.

    1. Thank you very much for sharing! Some of the comments I have received have inclined towards a positive, understanding reception towards such material, so I’m very glad to receive a valid, opposing argument from you. “Everyone is different.” is key. 9 out of 10 people might be understanding, but then 1 person might so eloquently dismantle it, that it might be all I take away from writing the book. I don’t have any grand ambitions with the book, but I do hope that it will provide some value to whoever reads it. I am still in two minds about whether I should retain the material on depression or not, but I think I will have to get over my own fears to do the right thing. Thank you again for your feedback!

  6. I do think of people differently when I find out they have depression – but usually with more compassion and an intention to be more patient with them, if patience is required.

    As for myself, I have found that there have been varying degrees of responses. Some didn’t believe it, or thought I’d be fine with a holiday. Others have, I feel, lowered their estimation of me. Many, I’m glad to say, have been patient and kind and have treated me still normally as a friend.

    I do understand the reluctance to become known as ‘that depressed woman!’ Perhaps those essays could be used for a later book? Though I’m sure they’d contribute a lot to the book…it’s hard to know what to recommend…even harder for you as the one who makes the decision.

    1. Thank you for such a balanced and thoughtful response, Shazza! I’m already known as that “morose”, “eccentric”, “whiny” woman, so I suppose “depressed” shouldn’t be that surprising! It just feels more like a label than any other, say classical words like “melancholic”. I think I can go ahead with most of the book without the references, except there is one essay I really want to keep. I think it would be cowardly and unfair of me not to, especially because I want the book to be representative of my two-year-old blog here. I guess it is a question of getting over my own fears, because why should it matter what certain people think? Thank you again for your feedback!

    1. Thank you so much for reading and sharing. The manuscript’s still lying untouched, for the second time around, but I’m hoping to find the courage to work on finally making it publishable. Obvious, mental health issues are much bigger than me (and my fears) and if I am able to write something that helps in, at least, raising questions that should be discussed but aren’t, then it would be much more rewarding for me than any stigma I face. I will try my best. Thanks again.

      1. I’m glad that you are writing a work for publication. And I encourage you to take it out and look at it again. If you’re into Tarot and think a reading might help, I’m doing free ones over at my blog.

  7. It’s not always that you think of them differently. It’s that sometimes you don’t know what to do. Having been someone who has suffered from depression before, I know that sometimes there isn’t a specific ‘thing’ you can do to make someone feel better. It’s frustrating from both sides. But in the end, you know that you’re there for someone, and they know you’re there for them when they need you.

    1. Absolutely. Even if people suffer from it themselves, they often don’t know how to respond when someone else admits to it. Saying “I know how you feel.” is probably one of the worst things you can say, because it is never the same for two people, and everybody deals with it differently. Often, people can get quite condescending, and even say “I have it worse than you do.” These responses are just as bad as ignoring it, or stereotyping them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s