This topic is something I am faced with today. Something I have always thought about but never personally had to experience up until now. I have depression. A chronic illness. Some people consider it a death sentence or stigmatise it. We get called a lot of things. “Crazy”, “Unstable”, “Weak”, “Damaged” …. The list goes on. Would you ever think of someone with a heart disease that way? Or if someone had say, cystic fibrosis to live with making it literally hard for them to breathe at times? Would you consider such a soul unworthy of companionship? Of love? Of being seen as a person with a unique identity worthy of being known? Obviously heart disease and cystic fibrosis is so much more of an easy answer for most to say no, they are not any less. But ask someone that question when it comes to depression and other mental health problems the world faces and suddenly the answer is yes. They are not special or unique, worthy human beings. They are a tradgedy. And a tragic mind that is a write off, having nothing to offer the world. But what is the real tradgedy is the world’s misconception and stereotyping of such individuals.
Who are we really? We are people. Normal people. We have thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes. We love, we hate, we laugh, we cry… We have hopes and dreams and passions. Sometimes, we just lose sight of those things and our vision is clouded. Our hearts lose track of things as our minds’ chemistry goes haywire. But even in the midst of all that pain and confusion, we still love what we love and want what we always wanted. We are still ourselves and we still have one hell of a story to live out.
The thing is, you don’t get to judge someone based on them being ill for a while. If I judged the type of person you were at the lowest point of your life do you think I would’ve liked that person? And most of all, do you think it would be fair to do so? No. You know it wouldn’t. The only time you get to judge a person with depression or another mental illness is when they don’t fight to recover anymore. When they don’t want to see their illness anymore and instead just choose to become their illness, denying its existence. Then you get to judge, by all means. Because depression is not a character flaw. But refusing to fight against an illness, that is a decision of character.
Today I am being admitted to a psychiatric hospital for depression. When I told my boyfriend that, I felt ashamed. I knew he wouldn’t judge me but he admitted it’s a bit tough for him to process because he could never fully understand it. I am good at compartmentalising my mind and when I interact with others they only see the compartment of me being normal and laughing and saying all I should. I never allow them to reach into that compartment of darkness and pain that resides in the back of my mind. That compartment has been mine to stare in its ugly face. Just mine. Mine to fight and hide. But when you let someone into your life and into your heart and you love them, your compartments cannot stay hidden. Telling him about my depression was one of the hardest things for me to do because I expected the blow of rejection. The thing is, I hide my pain because I don’t ever want it to become somebody else’s pain. I don’t ever want my darkness to effect anyone else and moreover, I’ve seen it as my demons to fight and I would never let my fight become somebody else’s. But nonetheless, it’s something that has to be told and as uncomfortable as it may be, it’s something that the person you are with needs to understand and acknowledge to a degree if they are to support you.
But above all, I want people who are in a relationship with someone who suffers from depression to understand how to be there for the people they love. It really isn’t rocket science or as though you need to carry them through. Having depression is something only you are responsible for fighting. But having support is vital and you deserve that support. You deserve having someone learn as much about your illness as they can and to understand the biology. You deserve having someone tell you they love you regardless and to visit you and show you they care about you. You deserve having someone love you a little louder when you forget how to love yourself. You deserve having someone hold your hand and still see you as you; your unique identity which is why they fell in love with you in the first place right? You deserve it. If you have someone who cares about you then that is how they should support you. People get sick and then they get better again and life goes on. So don’t judge them. If you do then leave because I can promise you we judge ourselves enough already. Maybe throughout their life they will have dips and end up admitted again but so what? They are still fighting to live life and you owe it to them to stand by them anyway. This isn’t a perfect world and there is no such thing as a perfect relationship.
Stigma is a load we will forever carry and being misunderstood and judged is something we will forever face. So the decision is pretty simple. Support us or don’t, but don’t ever make us feel like we are less and a liability to your future. That isn’t fair. I am still myself. I am still a unique human being with thoughts and feelings that go far beyond my depression. Whether you choose to see that is your choice alone.