Friday, August 15, 2014

The Face Of Depression

   
While the country is reeling from the loss of Robin Williams, we find ourselves asking the same question over and over---what would drive one of America's most beloved comedians to end his life? On the surface he had everything: a unique brand of humor that brought him fame, a loving family and a multitude of adoring fans. How could he have been so unhappy?
   
Only those who have a personal experience with depression can understand the scope of pain from this form of mental illness. It is a debilitating disease that robs a person of the simplest joys in life. It carves a hole too deep to fill in the hearts of those who wrestle with the inner demons of this acute, medical condition.
   
Depression is a nondiscriminatory disease that strikes every age, race, gender and class. It manifests itself in the form of physical pain, lack of self-worth, shame, helplessness and hopelessness. It is an invisible wound that is often misdiagnosed and in some cases, difficult to treat.
   
Those afflicted with the disease view the world through a warped lens where everything is distorted and emotions are muted. Even when surrounded by a loving family, they feel utterly alone. And while others marvel at the sun's glorious rays as it rises over the ocean, they can only feel the weight of their emptiness. It's not as simple as choosing to be happy. Depression traps people under a numbing layer of ice and leaves them gasping for air.
   
How do I know this? Depression has shadowed me since childhood. I never felt comfortable in my own skin, but I was too young to understand what caused me to feel that way. I only knew that I was different. No one ever said that it was unhealthy for a six-year-old to wake each day with a sense of dread, because they never had the chance. I was too ashamed to tell anyone how I felt.
   
There was a negative stigma attached to depression when I was growing up, and I learned to mask what I considered my "abnormality" with humor. It went beyond hiding what was tearing me up inside.  The shame I felt was carefully concealed under the long-sleeved shirts I wore to cover the self-inflicted wounds on my arms. Cutting was the coping mechanism of choice for the unexplainable, inner turmoil that plagued my life.
   
It took decades of battling depression before I realized I needed help in waging the war against losing my sanity. The onset of menopause only intensified the depressive symptoms I felt, stranding me  in a bleak landscape of hopelessness. Thankfully, I was able to find a treatment that worked for me, but not everyone is as fortunate.
   
There is no quick fix for depression, as each case is unique. It is a dark and frightening disease that cannot be cured with alcohol, drug abuse, or sex. In some cases, intense therapy and even love can't save a patient from the inner demons that haunt them. Antidepressants work successfully for some, while for others, it functions as a temporary patch over a leaky valve that threatens to burst. Once the seal is broken, a storm of uncontrollable emotions is unleashed, driving many to the brink of desperation.
   
In the aftermath of Robin Williams' apparent suicide, there will be critics who view his death as a selfish act of cowardice that has inflicted unimaginable pain on his family. This is an unfair assessment of a disease that society still knows so little of.  Depression is not a choice. It's a mental illness associated with an immeasurable depth of despair that leads far too many people down the dark path to suicide. From their perspective, it's the last option left after trying all other forms of treatment to escape the intolerable pain of living. They mistakenly believe they're a burden to their loved ones and view the finality of suicide as an answer to end all suffering.
   
The irony of William's death is that it took the loss of a comedic genius to shed light on our inability to recognize the difference between sadness and major depression. Society as a whole needs to be educated on these differences and set aside any preconceived notions of depression.
   
Our job is not to judge or blame. It's time we promote awareness and help those suffering from depression find the inner peace they deserve. Compassion and understanding are the gateway to hope and finding the courage to change. Only then can the people we love begin to heal.

***Please share this post and this number if you know someone battling depression : National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255   SAVE A LIFE!


Want More Meno Mama? "The Face Of Depression" is also featured on The Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcia-kester-doyle-/the-face-of-depression_b_5675699.html. If you want something funny to read, check out my featured post this week on Midlife Boulevard here: http://midlifeboulevard.com/food-baby/
   

 

60 comments:

  1. Marcia, this was so well written, I have dealt with depression as you know, it doesn't matter how wonderful life around you seems to others, a depressed person can't see this, I couldn't see it.

    I think it is sad that there is still a stigma towards depression, until we change that, I don't think we will heal...

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    1. Yes---we need to bring more awareness to this debilitating disease so more people can recognize the symptoms and get help.

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  2. Your words are so very powerful and so well written, Marcia. I think we all know or have a relative who struggles with this disease. While we have come a long way medication-wise, we still need to keep educating ourselves on how debilitating this disease can be to those who are suffering.

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    1. Absolutely! My father was treated for the disease and I'm worried it will show up in my own kids.

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  3. I totally agree with you. Depression is a disease that needs treated with medication, just as diabetes is. It amazes me that there are people in the world who haven't planned their deaths. I didn't even realize how warped my brain is until it was pointed out to me that the majority of people reacting to Robin's death have no clue what it feels like to be at that point. I do understand.

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    1. I was surprised, too! I was shocked by his death…and yet I wasn't, because I totally understood why he would do it.

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  4. Thank you for your very brave and honest account of your demons. You are so right when you say this is not the time to condemn or blame. It's never really the time to do that, wouldn't you say? And only when depression will be thought of as a disease will people stop doing that. Getting the word out is the only way this overwhelming disease will ever be understood.

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    1. It's a shame that so many people just dismiss it as a phase of "sadness" and expect others to "get over it." I'm hoping to create awareness so that people will have a better understanding of how serious this disease is.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your very personal story Marcia. Compassion and understanding is key!

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    1. Absolutely it is. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Very well written. Thanks for sharing your personal story, think by hearing people talk about their own struggles it has the potential to help many others as well.

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    1. That's what I'm hoping for---to send the message that it's OKAY if you are suffering from depression--this is nothing to be ashamed of. And for people to PLEASE get help before resorting to dangerous methods to alleviate the pain.

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  7. Well put, you've summed up and given us a lesson in compassion.
    Barbara @ www.allmylivesnow.com

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    1. Thank you, Barbara. I hope others will spread the message after reading this.

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  8. Very well put. Such a great loss and so very sad. There are people battling depression every day. It's an illness that needs to be treated with compassion, and dealt with as a deadly disease. Acceptance and treatment are the first steps. Good to know you found help.

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    1. Between the medication and a loving family who, thank God, has a great sense of humor, I made it through the darkness. :)

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  9. Very well said MM. 'Real' Depression is a serious issue and you can't just snap someone out of it with a joke, a meal or a kind word. Robin Williams had more than many of us would ever have, but despite that, he had an illness that could not be cured by his wealth. It goes much more deeper than that. You have to be in one hell of a dark place to not only think about taking your own life, but to set the scene and do it, knowing that you have a loving family around you.

    Depression usually comes to the forefront of our minds when we hear of stories like this. I hope that 'depression' can become an everyday word in society that people are not afraid of, and hopefully one day, the stigma will be no more.

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    1. Very well put, RPD. Sad to think that it took the death of a great man to make people aware that depression is EVERYWHERE and that it is a disease that can hit ANYONE. Robin's death is our wake-up call.

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  10. Thank you for this beautifully written post. My mother who struggled with bi-polar illness took her life a few years ago. It is so sad. I have also struggled with depression for most of my life and have been determined to find the best coping strategies so I don't end up in the depths of despair without a way out. Writing my book Over iT was a therapeutic tool in my journey out of depression. My heart goes out to anyone who suffers with this mental anguish.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your mother, Mary. I cannot even imagine how difficult that must have been for you. Glad to hear that you sought help and also wrote a book about it. That must have been cathartic for you and it's a great way to spread awareness. Hugs to you, my friend. XO

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  11. So sad that it took the death of a beloved comedian to get us all talking about this ongoing issue.

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  12. Marcia, you know I'm bawling reading this. You know how familiar I am with that medicated "band-aid" and the guilt that comes along with it. I find it interesting to see how many of us cover the scars with humor.
    Thank you for writing this and shedding light on the fact that it's not a shameful thing to talk about.
    All my love and hugs to you, my friend.

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    1. I knew you would relate---we've talked about this before, late at night when we've both been down. I think this is why I always felt a bond with you, Michele. We get each other.This is also why I love you so much and pray that one day we will be able to meet! XO

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  13. The world has lost a wonderful man. You have written this article in a thoughtful yet sensitive and understanding way. I am sorry for your struggles - but appreciate that you're reaching out to help others in a similar situation.

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    1. I'm really hoping that this post will touch someone, help at least one person. We just need to make society more aware of the struggles with depression.

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  14. I left a comment at HuffPo, but I wanted to leave one here too Marcia. Hugs to you, my friend and thanks for telling your story. It's never easy to put ourselves out there, but it's important and I truly believe it's making a difference. xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I hope it will make a difference. XO

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  15. I been diagnose with light study depression. I once told a few people that I diagnose with steady and light form of depression. Here is some of the reaction i got...Are you Bi Polar...All you can't be depress you to funny....What makes you depress.
    No my depression isn't real bad and I can hold down a job...but I'm always lightly depress.

    Coffee is on

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    1. Isn't it strange how people always assume these things when they find out we are depressed? I don't think a lot of people truly understand the severity of it. I hope you are doing okay, Dora. Sending you hugs! XO

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  16. A great post, I think it is sad that it takes the death of someone as famous as Robin Williams to get people talking about depression

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  17. I knew Robin Williams had battled addiction his whole life, but I wasn't aware he was plagued with depression. His death was a surprise to me and hit me hard. With all his available resources, he still wasn't able to beat it, so what hope do the rest of us have? I know everyone is different, but still...

    Great post, Marcia.

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    1. Thank you! I knew he suffered from severe depression, so honestly, I can't stay that I was THAT shocked by his death. He had the resources and used them but nothing really helped. I believe that the Parkinson's diagnose is what finally sent him over the edge of hopelessness.

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  18. I thought cutting was a new trend. I've seen it take on a life of it's own at my daughter's high school. It seems people are doing it as a trendy thing, and that's scary too because it leads to people being diagnosed with depression (and put on medication) who really don't need to be. It also could do the reverse and water down the seriousness of needing treatment for those who really do (need it), as doctors become desensitized to the teens doing it. A little off topic, but it's what came to mind. I was very sorry to hear of Robin Williams passing.

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    1. Cutting has been around for a long time--it just never had a name back in the 60's and 70's. Plus, no one would EVER admit to it for fear of being considered "unstable." I kept my demons to myself. Stupid reality TV shows like MTV feature "depressed" teens cutting themselves, so now a lot of young women (and some men) are doing it for attention. Yes, it really messes up the credibility for those who are seriously in need of help.

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  19. This is fantastic. Thank you so very much for sharing this important information. It is courage like this that raises awareness. Consider it shared. :-)

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    1. You are AWESOME! Thank you for helping me spread the awareness!

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  20. ****Our job is not to judge or blame. It's time we promote awareness and help those suffering from depression find the inner peace they deserve*****

    I know what the black hole feels like. This is the reason I gravitated toward Sylvia Plath's poetry in my youth I was like, "OMG, you are writing about ME! WOW."

    Nobody has a right to JUDGE. Ever. Unless they have been there.

    People living w/ depression ARE NOT weak....They are STRONG for getting up every single morning trying desperately to LIVE.

    Robin Williams hid his black dog VERY well...this is the reason people are wildly upset. I mean, if it can happen to him...it can happen to anybody.

    Powerful piece, Dear. Hugs coming your way from MN. xxxxOOOO

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    1. You and I are on the same page. My depression is the same reason I too, gravitated toward Sylvia Plath's work. And I wasn't at all surprised to learn that she committed suicide because I understood somewhat the depths of her depression. I hate that Robin Williams died this way, but hopefully we can make something positive out of this so that people will become sensitized to this serious disease and start treating it correctly. Thanks for stopping by to read this---Hugs to you, too!

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  21. Everyone has to experience sadness; it's part of life. But normal sadness... which some may even call "depression"... is triggered by an outside event, like the death of a loved one, divorce, devastating disappointment, etc. It has a definitive cause, and usually comes to a natural end. Unfortunately, too many people fail to differentiate between that normal kind of sadness and the deep clinical kind of depression that is just THERE, like an unbearably heavy weight in the chest that won't go away, regardless of the circumstances. Robin Williams' death is shedding light on this subject like nothing else I can recall, and your post takes it another step forward. Well said. And very courageous to say it.

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    1. Thank you Susan! You summed up nicely, too----how so many people misconstrue real depression and regular symptoms of sadness.

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  22. As a fellow sufferer of depression, Robin William's death has hit me very hard. Thank you for writing so eloquently about your feelings and experiences. People need to understand that depression isn't just feeling down once in awhile. And many people who struggle with depression hide it under humor.

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    1. That' something I've discover since blogging. Some of the funniest bloggers I know out there are suffering with clinical depression and taking meds to alleviate some of those symptoms.

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  23. You're right - depression is absolutely NOT a choice.

    Something that bothered me was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences tweet, "Genie, you're free." Since then I've seen people referencing it and retweeting it. But I find this problematic since it somehow suggests in taking his own life he was "freed" from his illness. Suicide isn't a peaceful death. It's terribly violent and sad, and in many ways, not really in the person's control at all, even when taking one's own life.

    I am both grateful and frustrated that we are only paying this much attention to depression and suicide now. Just a month ago a colleague tried to end her own life, and so this has been on my mind a lot lately.

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    1. You are so correct! The whole genie comment makes it sound like suicide is the answer to freedom. That is NOT the message society should be hearing. We need to make people more aware of the seriousness of this disease and offer hope through help.

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  24. What a poignant and heartfelt post. I have battled depression on and off throughout my life as well, fortunately I haven't had any symptoms for about 5 years now. My younger brother committed suicide 3 years ago, and I also had so called 'friends' tell me how selfish he was to do that. I didn't, in the midst of my grief, know how to make them understand that when a person is in the very centre of the depths of despair, they're not thinking straight at all....the disease is doing the talking. It's a tragic and deadly illness and if anything good can come of Robin Williams suicide, it's the attention that it is giving to depression and alcoholism....although I don't think that attention is going to have any lasting impact. People will talk about it for a while, and then go on with their lives....which is probably all the average person feels they can do.

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    1. I agree with you--I'm concerned that people will forget over time and go back to the way things were. I am so sorry to hear about your brother---I cannot even begin to imagine the pain you must be in. Hugs XO

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  25. Hi Marcia! First of all, that is such a lovely photo of Robin Williams, thank you for using it.
    I agree that depression is misunderstood by many of the population, and you can bet that ALL of them have no real connection to the feeling, or have loved ones that do. As soon as you have a personal connection, then you understand.

    I hope your well read post here will remind people that we are all in life together, and need to help each other out no matter what the disease. It really doesn't matter if you understand it, it matters that you get out and help people who need you. I pray that I'll always be that person.
    Oh, and bless you for your honesty about your own battles. I know you will touch hearts with that.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. Thanks, Ceil. I wrote this in the hopes to reach others suffering from this debilitating disease. They need to know that they're not alone and that there IS help out there.

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  26. I wish everyone battling depression could read your thoughtful and well-written post. You've done much to shed light on an illness that's been swept under the rug far too long. Take care.

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    1. Thank you, Stephen. Even if it only reaches one person, at least I've let them know they are NOT alone and to PLEASE seek help before giving up on life, difficult as it is.

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  27. Powerful writing, and very powerful and important points, Marcia. I'm so glad that you found a treatment that works well for you. I find it indescribably sad that so many people are either afraid to ask for help, or do not find the treatment that works for them. It's heartbreaking, as is the loss of Robin Williams (and everybody who has ended his or her life because they felt there was no better option). I'm glad that you wrote this and hope everybody in the world reads it. Happiness isn't always a choice - so so true.

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    1. I wish it was as simple as choosing to be happy but we know differently now because of Robin Williams' death----sad that it took that to make people more aware.

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  28. I wish I had the answer. I, too, have struggled on and off with depression over the years and have thankfully, in the last few years, been able to shake it down to what I would consider "normal" depression...depression that comes from a tragic event, a remembered loss, the knowledge of your own mortality, etc. We *all* get depressed at one time or another, but not necessarily to the point of cutting or suicide. It's a vicious mental illness, for sure. I was so unhappy to hear of Robin Williams's suicide...such a funny man, but I guess he had his own demons. Don't we all.

    Thanks for speaking out, Marcia.

    I'd also like to add that I hope there's a special seat in hell for the monsters who tormented and bullied Williams's daughter off Twitter.

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    1. I was horrified by the way Zelda was treated on Twitter. I'm happy to hear that you are only having normal depression episodes. That's where I'm at, as well. But if I go without my meds….it's a whole different story.

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  29. ill enjoy read your blog...
    thaks sharing about Robin Williams

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