First, there’s the stigma that attaches itself to mental illness.
Assumptions are often made about those who suffer chronic depression. Sometimes those assumptions are founded in reality. Often they are not.
Long ago, in the checkered landscape of my own past, I learned that problems tend grow in the darkness of ignorance.
Open discussion, honesty and dialogue… these are the tools available to us in learning to live well with mental illness.
In my books, The Noon God and The First Excellence, I explore the harshest effects of long-term depression, most notably suicide. In The Noon God, my protagonist Desdemona Fortune experiences ‘survivor’s guilt’ after not one, but two, close family members end their own lives.
In The First Excellence, the story opens with Min-xi, the soon-to-be mother of a second born daughter, who finds herself under tremendous pressure to kill her daughters in hopes of later conceiving a son. Unable to hurt her daughters, she instead abandons them in a popular tourist area, knowing they will be found and hoping they will make their way to a better life. After leaving them on a park bench, she takes her own life.
I have an intimate understanding of the kind of depression that can lead to such a tragic outcome.
Like Desdemona, I am a survivor of ‘sibling suicide’. A long time ago — a lifetime ago, it often seems — I lost my older sister, Debbie. As a teen suffering from an intense and long-term state of depression, one dark night she chose to throw herself through the window of a 12-storey apartment.
I’d like to pretend that I don’t understand. Sadly, I do.
I am also a survivor of chronic depression, and like many such survivors, I remain alert to the triggers that can bring about a spiral into darkness.
There is one thing that seems to help stave off the ravages of depression, in my experience. That ‘one thing’ is honesty.
When I pretend everything is ‘OK’, that’s when I’m in danger.
On the other hand, when I accept that this illness is part of who I am, and when I am honest with myself and others, then I can find a way to not only survive, but to live well, to enjoy this gift I’ve been given.
If my words can help even one other person to cope, and more, to live well beyond the scope of that pain, then I will feel this dialogue has been worth the effort.
So come on, world, let’s get together on January 28 and remove the stigma!
Join me in Tweeting and Texting to support @Bell_LetsTalk.
Keep the journey alive! Tweet with me, or feel free to copy and paste the following Tweet:
#EndTheStigma with @Bell_LetsTalk on Jan.28/14 http://tinyurl.com/kj8ws5s TweetOrText #BellLetsTalk about #Depression & #MentalIllness