You’ve made me an invisible celebrity! How is this possible you ask? Well, people begin to whisper when they see me enter a room. They look at me but are careful to give just the right amount of eye contact to communicate a friendly hello. Then, they watch me with brief looks through quick glances; so as to avoid being caught staring. I’m the most talked about person at family reunions. Thanks to you, people want to know so much about me and gossip. I could probably have my own magazine that they’d just love to read!
Like a celebrity, the average person knows little about me. They know my job, how many kids I have, and, perhaps, where I vacationed recently. But they don’t know the real me. They don’t want to dare cross that social stigma to associate with someone who is "mentally ill" and battling an invisible diagnosis… battling YOU! If I had cancer, they’d send casseroles and understand why I can’t make it to an event. Depression, however, you are riddled with symptoms people don’t understand.
I want to rip my hair out when people give me their well-intended antidotes and cures. I’ve really heard it all at this point. “Just trust Jesus more and you’ll be happy.” “I have an essential oil for that!” “Everyone goes through a tough time at some point and this will pass.” “Lose some weight, eat healthier, and do yoga. A healthy body equals a healthy mind.”
While there is some truth to all of these for people struggling with a tough time in their life, you, Depression, are a different beast. I have tried all of the above, along with: counseling facilitated by a trauma therapist, EMDR, CBT, psychotropic medications, psychiatrist, a 5-week intensive treatment facility, and more! Nothing has “cured” me at this point. It’s still a struggle every single day of my life, thanks to you...
One of my favorite lines from a movie about a woman struggling to manage you comes from a scene where her husband asks her why she chooses to live where she is with a friend (who also has suffered from the agony of your control) and not at her home. Her response was so powerful to me. She simply said, “She doesn’t ask me how I am. She knows.”
My family does not understand and is not supportive. It’s possible I’ll lose my job because I’ve missed so much work for side effects from medications, days when you and anxiety trap me from escaping the security of my bed, or other lovely aspects of your nasty diagnosis. And just like people stop when they hear a celebrity’s name… people stop when they hear the words “mental illness” or “Clinical Depression”. They get afraid and worried by the real you. You are like the plague! When people ask how I am doing it’s just easier to say, “I’m tired.” If I really told them… they couldn’t handle it. And even worse, if I told them, “I’m clinically depressed,” I’d often get a response like, “I’ve been so depressed lately, too! There’s just so much to do and blah, blah, blah.” They’ve never really met you. They don’t know how you ruin lives. How you’ve ruined mine. I hate you Depression!
Female, Age 37
Clinical Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Epilepsy
Brianna Schiavoni, LCSW
“Ms. Schiavoni has given a voice to many people who battle various diagnoses. Through this therapeutic and empowering writing project, participants can finally share their story and reclaim their power over that diagnosis!”