Flowing alongside this has been another river, this one brimming with supportive messages urging anyone who might be feeling depressed or suicidal to share their thoughts and feelings with friends and seek help from professionals.
This all sounds lovely, except that many us affected with depression will tell you that telling friends you are depressed is committing social suicide.
At first friends will listen. If you are lucky they might not tell you how ‘lucky you are.’ If you are luckier again they might not tell you to ‘think positive thoughts,’ and if you are really lucky they might not tell you that they ‘would be depressed too if they had time.’
The subtext here of course is that you have thought yourself into this and can simply think yourself out of it. If only.
I don’t usually talk publicly about this but I have come to that wonderful stage in my life where I feel I can be honest and not worry about what people think or how my career would be affected. That ship sailed a long time ago I’m afraid.
In truth, I have spent far too many years trying to both hide my depression while simultaneously positive think myself out of it. It didn’t work.
Now, I know from experience that many people think positive thinking is the cure for everything but all I can say is that if it works for you great and I’m not knocking it but don’t fool yourself it will work for everyone. Depression is a cunning beast and unless you’ve seen it you really can’t explain it. The nearest I can come to describing it is a fog in your mind that hurts when you think.
NEGATIVE PEOPLE AND ENERGY DRAINERS
The real cunning of depression is that it makes you quite unlikeable while simultaneously increasing your self-awareness. Becoming aware that you are personally becoming one of those ‘negative people,’ or ‘energy drainers,’ is painful. Fucking painful. And yet your efforts not to be such a ‘downer’ fall flat. At the end of the day you are ill. You have no control over this illness and to coin a cliché ‘you are what you are.’
Believe me, I really hate saying this but if you confide your truth – your darkest depressive thoughts with friends you are very likely never to see them again. They will slowly withdraw their friendship until you suddenly realize you haven’t seen them for at least six months. Who wants to be around someone who drains your energy? There were some stages in my own illness when even I didn’t want to be around me.
You may think I am being harsh or bitter towards others but if I told you I could count the number of offers of support and visitors I received during an eight month-long recovery from serious leg injuries and an accompanying bout of depression – on less than one hand you might understand.
In the wake of Robin William’s death I see one of my social media ‘friends’ posting deeply empathic messages over and over again. This amuses me. Years ago I confided to her that I was feeling very down. Her response was that she was rushing to collect a friend from the airport and would ring me later.
What provides me with a teaspoonful of bittersweet medicine now, but really hurt me back then, was that she had frequently told me that ‘the airport’ excuse was one of her favourite ways of getting rid of friends who bored her. Oh and I never heard from her for many years – not until I was healthy and well, and I suppose, a bit less boring.
One of my friends, a current sufferer of depression is, as I write this, experiencing the slow shuffling away of his friends. Like many sufferers he is currently withdrawing into self-imposed isolation. His actions are fuelled by his reluctance to ‘bring his friends down.’ We discussed this recently and came to a reluctant agreement that we would never tell people we are depressed. Sad. Sad. Sad.
Among the current onslaught of sympathetic social media messages are various posts urging people who are depressed or suicidal to seek medical assistance. Seriously? Have any of these people experienced our mental health services?
MIND YOUR HEAD
Despite the ‘mind your head’ adverts there are few places to turn with your head problems and most of those places have long waiting lists, or have been turned into Bedlamish hellholes by cutbacks. Ironically, it might appear that our mental health budget seems to have been spent on adverts advertising non-existent services.
I have posted various messages, pleas, and even begging messages on social media asking people to speak out against cutbacks in the health service, to send an email to their TD, to share a post in protest, but these were not popular and most of them were ignored in favour of happy pics. Nobody wants to be brought down.
I don’t want to be brought down either and I’ve got nothing against happy pics. In fact, I enjoy them very much and I post a few myself. I’ve got a puppy after all. But, sometimes I worry that we are using social media as grin-galleries where we paint ourselves happy and frame ourselves false.
The suicide of Robin Williams is, like all suicides, sad, tragic, shocking and seemingly unbelievable, but believe it, because until we learn how to relate to people grappling with the beast of depression there will be more crocodile tears wept at funerals by people who hadn’t seen their ‘friend’ for six months and can’t understand why they killed themselves.