It’s been a funny old week.
My day job is seasonal and eerily quiet at the moment, which has provided me with the rare opportunity of pushing ahead with ‘the book that will never be published’.
In spite of its themes, (some of which that can be emotionally destructive), I have found myself completely submerged in my fictional characters and their life trials once again.
You need to be in a particular frame of mind to immerse yourself in a story where one of the main themes is depression.
You can just tell that it’s bestseller material, can’t you?
And then, on top of sobbing my way through several chapters that were sadder and darker than Harry Potter’s home life, came the terrible news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. We knew him well in our household because he starred in one of Kurt’s all-time favourite movies, The Boat That Rocked, and each of us have mastered the dialogue of that movie almost as well as Top Gear.
Like Heath Ledger’s death, his passing made me revisit my own particular ideas about the causes of drug abuse and self-medication, because self-loathing and a lack of self-worth can often be fuelled by depression and self-medication can cleverly camouflage itself in the short-tern as a viable solution.
And when I waved off a more mentally balanced Kurt to school camp this morning at ridiculous o’clock, I noticed how clear his arms were of cuts for the first time in a long while. The scars of the darkness are finally healing and I found myself saying a secret prayer that they stay that way, even though I know that ADHD and depression are life-long buddies who can get into all sorts of trouble together.
So I will always need to helicopter be vigilant.
And that thought process drew me to watch an amazing TED talk by Andrew Solomon on the subject of Depression – Depression, the secret we share. Have you watched the TED talks? I’m sure that you can come out with a BA in TED if you watch enough of them.
The main problem with depression is that no-one really wants to talk about it, just like no-one ever used to talk about cancer, even though we now wear bright ribbons and ugly rubber bracelets to celebrate beating it.
We don’t really celebrate beating depression because it’s always there, lurking in our psychy, and more often than not, only the drugs will help keep it at bay. And sadly, there’s still very much a stigma attached to taking anti-depressants, even though they prevent millions of people from taking their lives prematurely, preventing their loved ones from loving them.
Anyway,it’s just too depressing to talk about depression.
Many of us probably believe that we’ve experienced a level of depression at some point in our journey. Life is hard, and the pressure to keep buoyant can sometimes become too much to bear. But as Andrew points out, there is a huge chasm between depression and sadness in terms of its symptoms, its effect on quality of life and its duration.
Not many of us will have experienced the inability to get out of bed, or to care for our children or get out of the house.
What a bizarre choice for me to attempt to write my first book with depression as a theme when I like writing humor. But writing has always been therapeutic for me and writing about what I know seems a safer way to start.
If I use Andrew Solomon’s yardstick, I’ve never suffered from true depression, but I’ve come a little too close for comfort. And I’ve known people who have suffered from it and witnessed my own son become tainted by the Black Dog too.
Mental illness is a terrifying experience for those outside the box as well as those trapped inside, because it is so difficult to manage.
Telling someone who is depressed to cheer up is like telling someone with a nut allergy that Brazil nuts are fine.
Perhaps Philip Seymour Hoffman used Heroin to try and control his depression?
The biggest issue with depression is that like ADHD, it is an invisible illness which for some reason dents its credibility. If you break a leg, the plaster proves you are injured but when you suffer from depression, people assume it can’t be that serious because sufferers rarely want to talk about it or share their story. Platitudes are more along the lines of ‘toughening up’ rather than healing.
I was lucky. The reason I only touched the surface of depression is because I am a hypochondriac, as in tune with any subtle changes in my body as the finest athlete. My anxiety draws my attention to any new blockages in my system. So when I began to lose ‘vitality’, which as Andrew Soloman states is the most obvious symptom of depression, I sought help immediately.
Most people ignore the symptoms or don’t have time or money to deal with them, or put them down to life’s set backs and assume they will just get better with time.
But anxiety and depression don’t get better with time when left untreated – they fester.
Which is why sometimes we need to fight mental illness with drugs.