Bell let’s talk television commercials promoting their annual event of removing the stigma of mental illness are powerful and portray an accurate example of what someone with depression feels like when they are experiencing a depressive episode.
One of the commercials is of a woman dressed in business work attire; she is composed and appears confident. She is on the phone, leaving a message saying that she will be out of the office for the day.
You can see the pain in her eyes; you can hear it in her voice; she is in pain. She is cancelling her day.
That woman is me.
This is something that I am quite familiar with. As she hangs up there is a sense of relief that she won’t have to face the day, or face anyone. Yet at the same time, she is hunched over and takes a deep breath- she feels shame that she has to do this.
How do I know that this is what she is feeling? I don’t for sure; however it is how I at times have felt. I too have made that same phone call several times throughout my working career.
Mental illness and depression is one of the leading causes of people missing work, and for calling in ‘sick’.
There is no pain killer that helps this type of pain. She will most likely remove her make-up, take of the business suit and crawl into bed. She won’t share with anyone how she feels. She will be alone, feel alone, and she will feel shame. That woman is me. She will hope and pray that tomorrow will be a better day, and hope that ‘this too shall pass’.
Often this feeling of depression does pass; however it can also send you into a downward spiral that can last days, weeks, even months.
The next commercial is of a young man, sitting alone in a room. His phone sits on the table. He receives a text message. The message is most likely from a friend. He looks down at the phone. He doesn’t respond. He too is in pain. He is unable to respond. He doesn’t want to talk with anyone. He is alone, sitting in silence… and alone and silent is better than responding with what he is really feeling; which is sadness.
How do I know for sure that that is what he is feeling? I don’t for sure. I do know that I too have been in his shoes.
When you’re depressed you simply don’t want to talk about it. The pain is so deep, and the shame of feeling depressed also is deep.
This is the major problem with depression. We rarely talk about it. We often don’t get help. We wait hoping it will just go away. Or we hope that tomorrow we will have the strength to put on our happy face, and that we can make it and fake it through until it passes.
If the depressive episode lasts longer than a day or it doesn’t pass we will call in sick again…we have the flu or we tell our friends and family that we’re busy with something just so that we don’t have to muster up the energy to try and communicate with, or see anyone. It’s just too much work, mentally and physically.
Not getting help or not reaching out to people is very common for those who suffer from depression. It is the shame that prevents the person from speaking about it. It’s the shame and lack of energy that contributes to being unable to pick up the phone and call a physician that prevents the person from getting the help they need.
There is a feeling of ‘weakness’ runs through our bodies and minds. We hope it passes, yet at the same time there is a feeling of hopelessness and fear that it won’t pass.
We can’t remember the good days. Even if it was just yesterday that we felt well, confident, and secure in our jobs; or happy with our lives. We know deep down that we are blessed with good things, family friends, and all of the wonderful things that we have, and have accomplished. In these moments and during these times however we forget.
If we do reach out to a friend or a family member and share these feelings of sadness they will often remind us of these blessings. It doesn’t help make the pain go away, in fact it often can add to the shame as to ‘why and how can we feel so bad when we do have these wonderful things and blessings in our lives?’ The pain and shame intensifies.
So what does someone do when they are in the midst of feeling depressed?
More often than not they do nothing. Speak to no one. Share nothing. Self-medicate, turning to what works regardless of what that is for that person.
Some will simply cry until they can’t shed another tear. Some might try to do the things that would normally make them happy, for me it’s working out and playing music. Often though the music is turned off within minutes, and my workout attire is removed- literally thrown to the floor in anger and frustration.
And the tears begin, fear sets in and I wonder how long this episode will last. I pray it won’t last long. I’ve been there; I’ve experienced long lasting depression. I have also experienced the ‘it’s just a bad day’ depression, and I know that that may be all that ‘this’ is.
For myself I have learned that if the feelings of sadness lasts longer than a few days that it’s time to call my physician, as letting it go any longer could through me into that downward spiral that is very difficult to come out of.
Everyone has good days, and bad days.
Depression is different for everyone or anyone who has experienced depression. Getting to know your depression is like getting to know any other illness that you may have. Depression is an illness. Depression is not a weakness.
Depression can be hereditary, it can be a chemical imbalance, it can occur due to a past or present event. Depression can happen at any time, to anyone, and can be exasperated by any number of things.
Having Asthma is not a weakness, having Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not a weakness, nor is high or low blood pressure a weakness or any other of the million illnesses people have.
So why do many people think or view having depression or depressive episodes as a ‘weakness’?
Why do so many think that we need to just ‘suck it up’- Including those of us who have this illness? To this day no one has ever said to me during an asthma attack to just ‘suck it up’.
There is a stigma when it comes to mental illness and depression. There is no stigma attached to these other illnesses, yet with depression there is.
Bell Let’s Talk is helping in reducing the stigma attached to mental illness.
On February 12, let’s talk. In fact, why wait until then. Let’s talk now and let’s continue to talk. Help remove the stigma, help bring awareness to a very common illness that so many people have and who need help and support in understanding this illness- that is exactly that- an illness that is controllable and as common as the ‘cold’
Recognize the signs, symptoms and triggers of depression or sadness. Know when it’s time to seek medical attention just as much as you do when your ‘cold’ might be more than just a ‘cold’
Depression is treatable and controllable.
Visit http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/initiatives for more information and help
- The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
- Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)
- Douglas Mental Health University Institute
- Fondation des maladies mentales
- Fondation les petits trésors
- Kids Help Phone
- Louis H. Lafontaine Hospital
- The Mental Health Commission
- The University of British Columbia http://www.psychiatry.ubc.ca and http://www.brain.ubc.ca