Mental illness…there are many types and I’m no expert on any of them. My blog series will focus mainly on depression because it is so common and so misunderstood. We seem to be having a bit of an epidemic. More and more young people are taking their lives, more middle aged people are retreating into their homes, blocking off the chance to get help and continue enjoying their lives. If you are lucky enough to not suffer from depression, please take this opportunity to learn more so you can help someone else, or be prepared in case it hits you someday too.
Recent (and not so recent, but practically ignored until now) research suggests that depression is caused by inflammation. Wow! That’s exciting right? Not some crazy combo of chemicals messed up in our brains? Don’t get too excited just yet. This inflammation can be caused by all sorts of different things some of which seem like a chicken and egg scenario to me. I won’t try to explain the science but I’ll offer you these links: http://chriskresser.com/is-depression-a-disease-or-a-symptom-of-inflammation and http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/04/depression-allergic-reaction-inflammation-immune-system and http://www.feelguide.com/2015/01/06/new-research-discovers-tha-depression-is-an-allergic-reaction-to-inflammation/
The question posed in one of the articles brings up a good point. If depression is really caused by something in our body more so than in our brain can the stigma be lifted? It wasn’t lifted when the cause was thought to be a chemical imbalance instead of demons or whatever they must have believed before that. I believe the stigma can only be lifted when we realize it could be any of us. When we realize that it’s not just a “mood”, a “slump”, a “rough patch”. For some, sure this may be true, it may be just a bit of a rough patch where you experience some symptoms of depression and can get back on track. For many though it is not that at all.
Whatever causes it, depression is real, there is no denying that. One cannot simply “snap out of it.” When those of us afflicted by depression are given the impression that you think we can “snap out of it”, it makes it even worse. Because we start to believe that too and then that adds more stress (inflammation) and more depression follows.
Another really unhelpful argument we often get offered: You shouldn’t be sad…look how much worse “person/group X” has it…be grateful you aren’t them. Saying this is like telling someone they shouldn’t be happy about something because there is someone who is happier. If you think we haven’t already felt guilty about feeling shitty when there are sooooo many people who are worse off than us, think again. We’ve thought it, it has brought on guilt and stress which then adds…yep you guessed it…more depression.
I think I’ll stop there for today. If you would like to share your story with the public, please let me know. I would love to feature some real life stories to help educate those who have not suffered or been close to someone who has suffered from depression before.