Earning the Labels
Categories: Mental Health
Tags: analogy depression
It’s crazy because if you asked me “What’s the one thing that defines your life up to this point?”, my answer -since I was about 16- would be “depression”. And yet I still, roughly 10 years later, have some feeling of doubt about actually saying that I have “depression”.
I think that part of it is that the words are used far more loosely than, say, physical illnesses. It’s not uncommon for people to say “I’m feeling depressed this week” or “I’ve been feeling anxious lately”. That’s fine because it’s just how language is, but I would definitely say there’s a difference between that and living with depression or anxiety.
But more than that, my problem with how I view such things in my life is definitely primarily caused by my own thoughts and attitudes. I constantly compare myself to other people -even hypothetical ones, and almost always it’s in the “other people have it worse, so shut up” sense. My situation is way better than other people’s. (I know some people use the word “privilege”, but I think it’s been so hijacked by the people who precede it with “check your” that I shy away from it.) To think of people who went through childhood with an alcoholic parent, or physically abusive, or no parents, or a myriad of other situations. Some people in those situations come out relatively unscathed, and for that reason I tell myself to suck it up and try harder since people who’ve had worse have survived better than I. And for the people who come out of those situations with a mental problem like depression or anxiety, it almost seems disrespectful for me to use the same word as them.
And lastly, there’s the question of “Am I depressed, or just a downer? Is my self-loathing depression, or just a bad outlook?” These things sound like questions asked by someone unfamiliar with depression, because I try so hard to put my mind in the place of a hypothetical onlooker who knows nothing about me.
In reality that doesn’t make sense, because a lot of mental illnesses are completely invisible to onlookers. Really the only physical detriment I have is that my teeth are absolutely horrid because one summer, I was so depressed that I didn’t brush my teeth. At all. But when people see bad teeth, depression doesn’t occur to them.
So as bad as it is to say, I sometimes wish that I had more drastic symptoms of depression or anxiety. Like somehow, having a panic attack or suicide attempt would validate all the thoughts and feelings and the way they’ve effected my life for the last 10 years. Not even to other people, just to myself, that I’m not overreacting or that I’ve somehow “earned” the right to use the label, which is just a word that represents an idea.