Did you know that 1 in 10 Americans will experience depression at one point or another? And, 80% of people who exhibit symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving treatment.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Americans and depression is the cause of over two-thirds of the suicides reported.
Last month rapper Kid Cudi released a statement on his Facebook page being honest about his depression and feeling suicidal. So many people praised him for doing so and sent well-wishes because he took a big step towards recovery. This put fire under my behind to hurry up and get this post done, especially because Cudi expressed shame and apologized for his depression. Apologizing for being depressed is something no one should have to do but many feel they have to because they have guilt and feel as though they somehow did something wrong. I think this thought process stems partially from the stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially depression, and the thought that we somehow CHOOSE to feel this way.
Happiness Isn’t Always a Choice
This is one statement I absolutely loathe hearing someone say to someone who has expressed that they are depressed. More often than not, the statement comes from good intentions of making someone feel better but it just.. doesn’t. I don’t know anyone who wakes up in the morning and says “you know what? I feel like being depressed today!” (and if you know someone who does, please direct me to them because I would love to pick their brain).
I went back and forth so many times before I first made a Facebook post about struggling with depression. I even went back and forth about creating a blog that highlighted some of those struggles. You can read about that here.
I would constantly drop subtle hints that I struggled with depression. I’d share a blog, or video, or news article with statistics on depression. Until one day I was finally open and honest about it–publicly. I was met with much praise and “I’m proud of you”. I also received MANY private messages from others about their struggle with mental illness and how they wish they could be open and honest about how they are feeling as well. You never really know who around you is suffering and to what extent.
Unfortunately, not everyone is met with the same support and often people are made to feel like depression is something that they choose to suffer from.
Depression Isn’t a Choice
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen tweets or posts telling depressed people to “just choose happiness”. If only it were that simple.
I post inspirational quotes about happiness all the time to uplift and inspire, but I’d never tell someone being happy is as simple as choosing to be. Because it’s not. If someone is truly suffering from depression, and not just sad or upset, simply CHOOSING happiness is not an option. That thought process is dangerous because it inflicts guilt and shame on those who are truly suffering. They feel that it is their fault. And that something is wrong with them because they can’t just “snap out of it” and feel better.
Being completely honest, October was SUPER rough for me. Try as I may, I couldn’t snap out of it or choose to feel better. Too much was going on and I had started back on a medicine I hate that makes me feel terrible. There were times I couldn’t even be alone because I felt so shitty.
The next time someone expresses that they are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, encourage them to talk to someone and seek help. Seeking help, whether that is therapy or counseling, a consultation for medication, or life changes is a much healthier and helpful option than advising someone to “just choose to be happy.”