Dear Dirty America


Depression: Standing on the edge of insanity

Depression: Standing on the edge of insanity
December 31
12:57 2016

Perthshire, Scotland
*thanks to Ashley Leggatt for her invaluable input*

People constantly refer to mental health problems, but mental ill health is the reason for the torment which is depression.

In most cases, it’s impossible to tell if a person is depressed or not. Most signs are kept for the sanctity of home, where the dark thoughts swirl around in a mind which cannot conceive the idea of happiness. Once home, the facade crumbles and the person drops back into the darkness again. The pretence is over.

The smile is something which can be turned on, in order to seem “normal” to people they interact with on a daily basis. Standing talking to someone as if they don’t have a care in the world, when all they want to do is run away from the conversation.

Can you walk down the street and pick out a person suffering from depression? But someone with a broken leg is obviously injured. Depression is not visible, but is far more common than most people believe, and more difficult to get the correct treatment.

Some doctors are very good at seeing the signs of this illness, but some treat patients, women especially, as if giving themselves a good shake will cure the symptoms. This is a very old fashioned attitude, and thankfully is now changing.

Tiredness and lethargy can be signs. Also losing interest in eating or over eating and a lack of libido can point to depression. Initial treatment is usually antidepressants. These can be very useful in lifting the worst of the symptoms in the short term.

Unfortunately too many people go undiagnosed and are left to their own devices. Some people carry this burden alone for years, believing it will improve or that they just have to live in that way!

Other people when faced with a diagnosis of depression, are initially shocked. I know I was! I couldn’t believe what I was being told. This was something which happened to other people. People who were mentally unwell.

I talked it over with a member of my family and decided to accept the diagnosis and start the treatment offered. A huge bereavement had led to my behaviour deteriorating and abusing alcohol and drugs. I took the opportunity to take steps to address what was going on and change my outlook on life.

The antidepressants took a few weeks to make a small but noticeable difference. This made living easier, but not perfect. Rarely is anything perfect.

Some people who appear on the surface to be happy, self confident and mentally and physically strong, can be hiding immense pain. Seemingly unstoppable and utterly content with life, but underneath this is darkness and a feeling of having lost themselves. Somehow cast adrift from the rest of society and floating off without any means of anchoring the drift.

This has to be one of the most frightening experiences in anyone’s life.

Having someone close to talk to, helps, but usually professional counseling is necessary to get to the root cause of the depression. Sometimes a childhood event can be the problem, or any number of other issues. But whatever it is, it needs to be addressed.

The stigma of mental health issues is enough in some cases, to stop some people asking for help. Sadly, even in this day and age, there are ignorant people who still make fun of the mentally unwell. They should be ashamed, but that’s impossible for those without shame!

The smiling face you may see in front of you, could be hiding extreme mental pain and turmoil. They could be going through all kinds of things. Work related. Family related. Financial problems. Trying to keep their heads above water, but feeling as if they are drowning in the ocean of life.

We don’t know what is going on behind the smile. We don’t know what is behind someone’s seemingly bizarre behaviour. We need to be tolerant of others and not rush to judgement. We have to be aware of the effect our behaviour has on someone who is mentally fragile.

They could be hanging onto reality by a thread, and your words could snap the thread.

I often think, what if I had just asked if the person was ok? Would I have been able to prevent the tragedy? But in the end, I couldn’t have known. No one could have known.

The smile hid the pain, and then the pain ended the smile.

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Michael J Blair contributes political analysis to DDA, and he can be reached at: His Twitter handle is: @mmjblair

[Depressed person photo from user Unsplash, at Pixabay, listed at Wikimedia Commons]


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  1. Cynthia Howard
    Cynthia Howard December 31, 15:44

    Family members are so important as in your case to recognize that there is a problem. just to be there for support and see the person through their successful treatment.

    Reply to this comment

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