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Keep it to yourself.

I readily admit to being pretty opinionated.

But there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to provoke a visceral reaction in me, which I can’t promise won’t end up in my punching someone in the gut. And so I’ll share a piece of wisdom, to protect you from future harm should you ever venture into this territory in my presence:

Don’t EVER say a single, solitary word about medications others take to help them deal with brain illnesses. 

You have the right to choose NOT to take antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, ADHD medications, etc. And each other individual has the same right to make that decision.

Want to know what you don’t have the right to? An opinion about other people’s medication choices.

There are many, many people out there for whom these medications are literally saving lives. People in my own family are in this category. Yes, it would be a lovely, sunshine-and-rainbows world if they didn’t need meds simply to have a normal, productive life. But that’s not the real world for many of us. And those of us who need brain illness-related meds absolutely do not need to hear anyone else’s opinion about the medications we decide to take.

Here’s an analogy for you. If you heard someone ranting derisively about  a cancer patient’s decision to undergo a course of radiation and chemotherapy, you’d assume the ranter was a fringe freak. Cancer is often a life-threatening illness, and we support those who receive the problematic treatment for that illness. In the same way, mental illnesses are often life-threatening, and the medications that treat them are often problematic. It is simply cruel, thoughtless, and damaging to speak out against undergoing a course of treatment for an illness of the brain.

And yet, many, many people out there do just that.

Seriously – keep your mouth shut.





Depression Awareness Week from Those Who Have Been There

News reporter Mike Wallace said once when talking about his own depression, “There is nothing – repeat – nothing to be ashamed of when you are going through a depression.  If you can get help, the chances of your licking it are really good.  But, you have to get yourself onto a safe path.” 

And that right path includes learning about what depression really is, becoming aware of the signs, and learning what to say and not say to someone who is depressed, all in an effort to help healing come about.  

This is National Depression Awareness Week and those who have been there in the depths of depression say the things we should take to heart this week.  

Jane Pauley, also a news reporter and anchor, has said, “When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year I turned 50, it was certainly a shock.  But as a journalist, knowing a little bit about a lot of things, I didn’t suffer the misconception that depression was all in my head or a mark of poor character.  I knew it was a disease, and, like all diseases, was treatable.”  

It can’t be said often enough.  Depression is a illness, a treatable illness and it does not mean that the person with depression is lacking character.  A person in the depths of depression CANNOT pull themselves up by their bootstraps and be all better.   Don’t tell them if they only try hard enough they can get better.  As Barbara Kingsolver in The Bean Tree wrote, “There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes.  Depression is like cancer”

This week, whether you are a depressed individual or love someone who is dealing with depression, make a pledge to learn something about this illness  and to share that with another person.  Bit by bit we can help people see that depression is an illness, that it devastates the individual and the family but it can get better if we are honest with one another.  We need to put aside the pride and the self consciousness and realize that it is an illness, an illness that breaks the heart.  

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain but it is more common and also more hard to bear,” wrote C.S. Lewis in The Problem os Pain.  “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden.  It is easier to say, ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.'”