Monday, November 26

The Depression Card

Anybody with a history of depression will have been accused, either literally or implied (usually with one slightly-squinted eye), of playing The Depression Card. It's the stock response from people that are either afraid of, or simply too ignorant to try and understand, mental illness. It's how they think you are avoiding doing all the sensible and vital surviving that allows you to become a fully functioning member of the real world.

Problems at work? Use the Depression Card.

Don't fancy going out tonight? There's a Depression Card for that!

Dirty teeth and hair like an egret's nest? Slide that fucker across the table and just watch the look on their faces melt from smug 'judgemental' to bitterly resigned 'thwarted'.

It's your Get Out of Jail free card for pretty-much any unpleasant situation you wish to extract yourself from, and the beauty of it is NOBODY CAN TOUCH YOU FOR IT.

Let's get something straight right here. When somebody accuses you of playing The Depression Card what they are really accusing you of is being LAZY.

Problems at work? You could go into work if you really tried.

Don't fancy going out tonight? Don't be ridiculous. Of course you could put a dress on, and do your hair, and apply makeup, and get the bus into town and go to a party and be sociable and talk to people. You just can't be bothered.

Dirty teeth and hair like an egret's nest? You could stand in the shower and brush your teeth and rub shampoo on your head, then blow-dry it and put some clothes on. You just don't want to because you're lazy.

They could be right. All depressed people could just be incredibly lazy. That's why so many of them can't be bothered to go to work, or the shops. Instead of Depression Awareness days we could hold Laziness Awareness days instead. We wouldn't even have to do any work in advance. We could just yawn or cry at each other simultaneously over webcams and feel immediate solidarity with our lazy brethren.

When I was 18 I went a bit mad*. My parents were going away for two weeks and I knew I was too sick to look after myself. Instead of discussing plans of how I'd cope with them in advance I kept all my fears of 'Oh GOD I am going to DIE here on my OWN' to myself until the night before they left. Then I collywobbled all over the floor in a snotty mess, terrifying them. Mum was upset. Dad was furious. He accused me of playing The Depression Card. I was dispatched to my nan's.

Much later, when I was in my twenties and able to synthesise my experiences more successfully, I discussed this period in my life with my mum. Her response set me free. "I just looked at you - the state of your hair, your red eyes, your shaking hands and thought 'How can she possibly want to feel this way?'"

Yes, Mum. Bloody YES. How can I possibly want to feel this way? I honestly felt right there that my life's work was achieved. One person in my life knew how debilitating this was, and right there the Depression Card vanished before my eyes. Because nobody with depression would ever want to feel this way. Ask any of them if they want to feel so awful. ALL of them will say 'no'. That's why some even try to end their own lives. We are foot soldiers battling against the Black Dog, we need as much rest, sleep, understanding as we can get. And we don't ask for it lightly.

So (and this blog had to end on a 'so' didn't it? It's a Sesame Street-esque lesson, is what it is!) if you've ever been depressed, and you've read this: Please stop worrying that you're using your illness as some kind of excuse for not living your life as successfully as everybody else. You can't live your life like that right now. But you will, given time. And if you've ever (either directly or inadvertently) accused anybody of playing The Depression Card  at any point in your life I hope this has urged you not to do so again lightly.

*depressed. I was depressed. I just thought I was mad.


Bx said...

thank you for writng this Gemma. You have just shown me that there is a person in my life who knowa how it is to be me. and that person is you. Bx

Gary said...

Very good :)

Do Google searches and that...