I wrote a post called Choices and I wrote how you can choose to be happy. I expressed that it is a conscious choice that we can make everyday – whilst that is true for the majority but as a result of my studies, I have come to realise that people with depression do not have this choice or rather are incapable of making this choice. They feel they don’t have a choice – it just is, like the weather or the colour red, it is something that they want to feel but are incapable of doing so. This is in part due to the disregulation of certain neurotransmitters (chemical couriers that communicate information between neurons) in the brain. The most common neurotransmitters are Norepinephrine (NE) and Serotonin – when there is a disregulation – one of the disorders associated with this disregulation is Depressive disorders, others include obsessive-compulsive & eating disorders.
This highlights the fact that there is a chemical disruption that contributes to depression. It is not something that someone can ‘snap’ out of – it is something that requires much more understanding and should not have the stigma associated with it that it does. It is a mental illness and is proven by science – by the biological study of the brain and human behaviour. This is something that is talked about in the media and has received much awareness but yet there is still stigma associated to it. This saddens me – I think there needs to be greater education on this topic and assistance provided to those in need. When we look back in history, people who had mental illnesses were treated horrendously – they were locked up in asylums and did not receive proper treatment. It wasn’t something to be spoken about, but something to be kept hidden away from the rest of society. I worked in a location that was previously used as a mental facility in Australia in the 1800’s – I found out that when people were transported to the facility, they weren’t even transported on the roads. They came by water and then through tunnels underground to be hidden from society! What a message that would have relayed to people who were being sent there!
My life has been affected by depression in different ways with a younger sister who tried to commit suicide when she was a teenager, a close friend who lives with it daily and myself suffering bouts of depression after a near-death car accident in my early twenties as well as after having a child who was in intensive care for 2 weeks from birth, and then was in and out of hospital until age 4. I find it quite sad that society as a whole still tends to view those with mental illness as unstable or damaged and that they need to be kept away – that it is something that should be hidden and ashamed of. The stigma stems from generations of ‘hiding’ illnesses in the family as they were things to be ashamed of. This is something that we are starting to reverse – especially when people with high profiles eg. in the public eye – celebrities and sports athletes have come out in the open to discuss and share their experiences with the illness.
One thing that still strikes me as sad is that more is uncovered about the disease when someone passes away rather than when they are still living and struggling with it. My case in point is Robin Williams – he was a funny man, he made his living making other people laugh because he knew what it was like not to be able to laugh and be happy. This seems true of many people who have this illness, they tend contribute to other people’s happiness yet feel unworthy in their own minds and bodies. As a society, we have probably not had the capability to deal with this previously, but in this day and age when there is so much access to information, I feel ignorance is a choice. I feel that if you are unfamiliar with something – a topic, an illness, etc – you have the ability to research and find out information to be able to make informed choices. Whether that be the right choice or not, is up to each individual. It is also how much the individual is able to cope with and what coping mechanisms and support that they have in their lives to help them. As my understanding and awareness grows, so does my compassion and empathy towards this illness and anyone living with it.
I feel that it may be a continual journey of growth and if that growth enables you to become more understanding, compassionate spreading support and awareness then maybe that is the best outcome of your journey. For me, to understand that someone is incapable of feeling happy, is quite hard to process as I tend to try to find the positive in any situation – even when things seem really bad. I have often found myself reflecting upon the situation, whether it is during or after the event to see what, if any, positive things I can take away from the experience. But to know that some people don’t have that luxury as the chemistry in their brain doesn’t allow it, is saddening indeed.
To be able to laugh, love, live is not something I take for granted and appreciate that I am able
to do so. It also reminds me that we may be unaware of other peoples’ struggles and that it is easy to be kind to someone – it doesn’t cost anything except maybe a smile, a nice gesture, a kind word. Remember how much it may have meant to you to hear a kind word from someone or receive a kind gesture when you may have been going through a hard time – give out what you’d like to receive and the universe will reciprocate. I will leave you with a wish – I wish you enough. It is something I read recently that resonated with me and hope it resonates with others.
Some organisations that provide support for depression in Australia: