Saturday, 23 May 2015
A Matter of Choice?
First of all before we get to the topic of the title I have just a few points to cover.
1. A huge thank you for the amazing response this blog has received. It's been very overwhelming. Please keep sharing as it is apparent that this is a conversation that many would like to be involved in.
2. Some people have kindly asked how they can follow it. I THINK I have added a spot for you to enter your email address and you SHOULD receive new posts automatically. There is also a google+ button near my photo. This APPARENTLY puts us in circles (?) that means you will also receive it automatically. I am not afraid to admit that I have yet to learn all about this but I guess I am just jumping in the deep end. I have yet to understand what a 'blog' actually is! There is also a google+1
button which SHOULD allow you to easily share this with friends (?)
3. Other people have enquired how they can comment. If you click on the little pen near the word 'comment' a text box will come up. Your comment will not automatically be published straight away but look out for it.
4. Please also note that I THINK I have added a list of available support for anyone who is interested in gaining support, information or resources regarding depression, anxiety and mental health.
Okay, on to the topic 'A Matter Of Choice'.
Today I had the honour of speaking at a Lifestyle Expo. As often happens, one on one discussions take place once the formalities are over. Today I was asked an interesting question during a chat with a member of the audience.
If there was one message I could give to the general population in order to reduce stigma, what would that message be?
Now, I am not known for thinking on my feet but, strangely, my answer popped straight into my head.
I would like people to know, in their hearts and in their heads, that depression is NOT a choice.
I guess this popped into my head because during the week I had commented on one of those 'inspirational' posts that came up on Facebook. The words of the post said " happiness is a choice. Every single day you make a choice".
I disagree. And I said so. I even advised that the author should think carefully about the language they use. (I am sure they were grateful for my advice -NOT!) A number of responses followed mine. Some agreeing with me and others asserting that happiness was DEFINATELY a choice.
What do you think?
I definitely do not want to be a voice of gloom but I know that thoughts like these tortured me.
I constantly berated myself for not being happy. I SHOULD feel happy. I SHOULD feel grateful. I SHOULD look on the bright side. The list of 'SHOULDS' was endless. But all of these thoughts imply that I had a choice. So that then left me carrying huge guilt because I COULDN"T feel any of these things.
Think of it like this.
If I had a broken leg would I be telling myself that I SHOULD be able to run and jump and hop and skip? No. I would know that I COULDN"T do these things whilst my leg was broken. Would I feel guilty? No. Is it likely that anyone would tell me that I just needed to change my thoughts and I would be able to run and jump and hop and skip? I doubt it. What about if I just 'cheered up'? Could I run and skip and jump? I don't think so.
So, what is the difference?
The difference is that some people believe it is a choice to be depressed. There are no blood tests to confirm it. There are no x-rays to confirm it. Although I have been told that if scans had been done of my brain when I was at my worst that "it would have lit up like a Christmas tree". Strangely, this was reassuring to me. It would have helped with the guilt if I had scans to show the physical 'proof". How sad.
I am sure that if the general population understood this one concept of lack of choice then stigma may lessen. Perhaps empathy may even replace impatience. Understanding instead of cynicism. And education is the solution.
But there is something that IS a choice.
And that is - seeking professional help.
As hard as it is, seeking professional help is the only way to go. And, just like with any other illness, the earlier we seek help, the earlier treatment can begin and the better the outcome for everyone. Would you hesitate to seek professional help if you broke your leg? What a ridiculous question. Of course you wouldn't.
Would it be a sign of weakness? Another ridiculous question.
So be strong. Be Proud. Ask for professional help. For yourself or someone you know.
And be proud of yourself for doing so.
To those professionals who have changed and saved my life.
Jodie, Craig and Carolyn.
I thank you.