So, let’s talk about depression! Wait, come back…
So ok, it’s not the most pleasant of topics. It can be uncomfortable at best to talk about depression (or any other mental illness), whether you’ve experienced it or not. And I know this is a (sort of) yoga-themed blog, but depression is what compelled me to try yoga and to keep trying it. For me, yoga has been a strong antidepressant, and thusly, the two topics are very much related for me, in the best of ways.
So why the sudden desire to talk about depression? I just read this post on Hyperbole and a Half, one of my favorite blog/comics (comic blogs?) ever. The author, Allie, has been absent for a long period of time due to depression but just made a new post today. And instead of making a lighthearted comic about her crazy dog or a story from her childhood (some of her previous topics), she posted a comic about her experience with depression.
Yes, a comic about depression. And it’s fantastic. It manages to be painful and hilarious at the same time (though, I suppose that’s really what comedy is).
After reading it, I decided the following:
- When someone has the courage to talk about depression (or something like it), it has the potential to help and even enlighten other people. Some of the commenters and Facebook sharers have said things like, “This is my life,” or “Thank you for being brave enough to share this,” and “I think I understand depression a little better now.”
- Everyone is different and thusly experiences depression differently. In the past I’ve had periods of depression that varied between the kind of numbed-out blackness Allie describes and floods of intense sadness.
- It’s important that we try to talk about depression, when we can. Humor and openness can be invaluable tools for doing so (though they’re not the only ones).
I recently spoke to a friend about having had struggles with depression in the past. I feared that he might judge me or misunderstand, but instead revealed that he thought he might have some depression himself. It’s not like we instantly embraced and cried together or anything–the moment was much more subtle and casual than that–but I realized later how significant it was, because it encapsulates exactly why it’s important to share our experiences. I’m not saying we should all go out and scream it to the world, but having the courage to talk about it even just to a friend is something that can contribute to the larger shift I hope is occurring (or will occur) around the topic of mental illness.
And just talking about it can help. It’s an isolating enough experience already, so to feel like you have to keep it hush-hush can be very detrimental. I always feel an immediate sense of relief when I can talk to someone about the topic, regardless of how deep the conversation goes.
I also have a friend I email regularly and see in person when we have the chance to meet up with whom (side note: can we just stop using whom? Is that ok?) I can openly talk about mental illness. It doesn’t really matter that we’ve experienced it in different forms and different levels of severity. Our conversations are some of the best I’ve ever had, just because…well, we can just talk about shit, and we do.
As well I’ve been emailing with a friend of my mom who is having some trouble withdrawing from an antidepressant, an issue I became all too familiar with several years ago. She has thanked me for talking to her, but I’ve gotten just as much if out of our exchanges as she has.
I wish these kinds of experiences for everyone who has ever faced even the mildest mental illness. Knowing you are not alone is one of the most powerful causes for hope.
Not that we need to gather around in a circle and say, “I am Jeana, and I have depression,” but Allie Brosh has reminded me how significant it is to try to contribute to the conversation.
And you, no matter who you are: Your story is important.