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Why is it so hard to talk about depression?

Nicola Clarke
May 29, 2019

We’re opening up a little aren’t we? We’re coming around to the idea of talking about mental illness somewhat, yes? There are some sterling efforts lately to address the “need to talk”:

Talk to someone”, “it’s good to talk”, “time to talk”, “it’s ok to talk”, “let’s talk about it”. Talk talk talk talkety talk...So, why is it still so difficult to just - talk?

It’s a question I ask myself all the time actually because, contrary to me and My Black Dog and writing articles about depression and speaking about depression, I don’t really talk about my own depression a lot.

Why? Because it’s hard. It’s bloody hard, painful and messy and the fallout could be catastrophic, and you don’t know the fallout of telling your friend or wife or mum or son or boyfriend. They might LEAVE YOU or HATE YOU or FEAR YOU. But no, oh no, we are told we MUST TALK: roll the dice and see how the people respond....Rather than jump right on board with this talking idea, let me tell you that I completely, totally, whole-heartedly understand why you would choose NOT to talk about your depression. There are some good reasons:

Depression is not something you want to share, some examples:

Depression is like grief: mourning life instead of death. It drags you deep into darkness in spite of an exhausting, fearful struggle. My life has been blotched and broken by depression many many many times. I believe deeply, most of the time, that I am a truly monstrous creature.

One morning, in the throes of depression, I folded my body onto the floor and cried for almost one whole hour, simply because I was overwrought to have woken up. The amount of times I have tipped over into inconsolable grief after a glass too many is incalculable. I have experienced sheer rage at other people’s happiness followed swiftly by deep and consuming shame. I have said hateful things to myself that I would never, ever, say to another being. I have cancelled plan after plan with friends because I could not stand to subject others to what appears to me to be a deeply disgusting human form.

Depression, is not something you want to share.

We like to be liked don’t we? The searing cutlass:

I don’t know many people who delight in being despised. So, why would I, raw and blistered, come to the people I respect and care for the most, brandishing my pain like a searing cutlass and drive it into our relationship? Best case scenario: it stays there, awkwardly wedged and present throughout our life ahead, worst case scenario: it slices the bond altogether, because of something I know to be dark and dreadful in my soul that hurts us both, or hurts me and scares you and perhaps you judge, what if you laugh?  What if I lose you?

You do not know how people will react: the response:

“Nobody wants to be friends with the girl that finds life a bit hard”

“I think you need to get some professional help”

“Thank you for telling the truth about what it’s like”

“We know you’re a bit of a funny one”

“What do you mean clinically depressed?”

“Right”

“I just want you to take better care of yourself, which includes reaching out to a therapist”

“But you look so normal!”

“I’ve had my fair struggles with that as well”

“So, what does that mean?”

I don’t want to be fucking depressed ok. The hideaway:

You see, I don’t WANT to be depressed, nobody does.I want to be the fun person, the “drinks are on me” person, the “last night was so fun” person. The “I would love to date her” person.

So, I’m veiling the depression, keeping it locked in a jar and letting it escape when I’m alone in my flat, and only then. Anyone else who has tried to do this will know that it therefore seeps out of the jar, my volatile mind, at inappropriate times, in inappropriate places and oozes like sickly mud around me, and me, flailing about in my own misery, fall and entrench myself in it like the writhing self-pitying swamp beast I am.

Perhaps, I wonder at this point, I should have told someone before how devastatingly awful I felt and then maybe I wouldn’t be desperate to find a solitary space at work, or a child’s birthday party, or at the pub, so I can tear myself to pieces and weep relentlessly as I imagine how things would be better if I. Just. Stopped. Living.

It’s not easy to accept that you’re not well.

SO, TALK: the reason:

So you have to talk. OK. You just have to. It you don’t, you’ll shatter from the inside. It is a terrible, terrible illness to deal with and it is a terrible, terrible thing to be rejected or judged because of it. I understand this, I have lost friends and love and jobs because of this. If you don’t talk though, it will come out. And it won’t come out in calm, peaceful tears in a safe, supportive environment, it will come out catastrophically through wine or drugs or a fucking engagement party, the time when you wanted to be the bubbly fun person and ended up being a sobbing incapacitated mess. Now everyone’s worried and you’re pushing people away because it’s so so ugly and you hate that people can see you like this....

So yeah, you need to talk. Talk before it gets to this point. I know that opening up can be really hard, I fight against it all the time because it’s probably the thing that scares me the most. I have, however, come to recognise that talking to someone in the early stages of depression is much much easier than later down the line.

Talk to someone KIND, find the most empathetic person you know and start there, and if the first person you speak to reacts badly - fuck ‘em, find someone else to talk to. If you’re not sure who that is, find a professional - or talk to our volunteers; we’ve all fallen apart at some point, we don’t mind a bit of mess. Don’t bottle it in a jar and let it seep out, because that’s not a plan, that’s a shit fix. I promise there are people who do understand what you are going through. Talk, because seriously: it might just save your life.