Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Depression, Eating Disorders and Stigma

"Depression is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign that you have been strong for too long" - I was so relieved to hear this quote, although I am not sure who originally said it.

I have had depression on and off for 6 or 7 years, although I've only known about it for 3 years - up until 3 years ago, people just told me to get a grip and cheer up. Cheer up, you say? Cheer up? God, if it was that easy, I wouldn't be in this state, would I? I had been to the doctor but other things were blamed for my unhappiness like low self esteem and homesickness at school - but these were not the cause - they just added to the problem. There were lots of triggers - its a chicken and egg situation. I'm not sure which came first.

Depression is a complicated mental illness and there's much more to it than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. It was reassuring to know that it is a genuine illness of the brain where the chemicals that make you happy were out of balance (well, that's my simple way of putting it!). 

Depression affects one in four people - that's 25% of the entire population. That's a LOT of people. I get angry when I hear about the stigma associated with this illness. It's a clinical illness, and just because you can't "see it", it doesn't mean its not there. 

It can affect anyone - rich, poor, famous, royal, young, old... I salute Ruby Wax for writing Losing It - a show that tells us about what she went through. It was laugh out loud funny at times, but let me tell you: there is nothing funny about Depression. Ruby also gives a poignant account of her struggle with mental illness. Also - this is good to watch.   Andrew Flintoff has bravely spoken about his battle with the illness too.

A friend of mine has just bought this page to my attention and I think it is brilliant. I have not listened to the podcasts yet but will do so ASAP. Prof Mark Williams is an absolute genius in my eyes and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy is a very exciting and worthwhile route to pursue for help with depression. 

I also get angry when I hear of the similar stigma that comes with eating disorders such as anorexia - I've had that too. "Doing it for attention" is the classic line. Do you really think people wish to starve themselves? You don't choose mental illness, just like you wouldn't choose cancer or a broken leg.

I eventually got help. That's another story.

1 comment:

  1. Miranda, Depression is usually not felt as strongly by the sufferer as it shows to others. Looking forward to reading more and the podcasts.