It’s funny how it works. If you have hay fever, your throat is sore or your stomach hurts, you probably wouldn’t think of feeling ashamed. It’s perfectly normal to mention it. Why is it that we find mental issues so much harder to talk about?
In Holland, the government just started a campaign: ‘Hey, it’s OK!’, aimed at breaking the silence around depression. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from depression in the country, and most of them would like to talk about it, research showed. They find it hard to talk about it, though, and sometimes people around them avoid the topic.
Just bad luck
That’s a real shame, because not talking about it only increases feelings of shame about mental illness. No one blames themselves for breaking a leg – that could happen to anyone. But when it’s about depression or anxiety, it’s different, while these occur just as randomly. You didn’t ask for it, it doesn’t define who you are, let alone how strong you are. It’s just bad luck.
Your depression doesn’t define you
Embrace your issues – but don’t identify with them. You may suffer from depression, but it’s not what you are. Look for help when you nee dit, just like you would with a broken leg. It’s called taking good care of yourself. And tell people around you how you’re doing. You’ll be surprised how many people will tell you that they also… or that they know someone who also… And don’t think for a minute that mental issues have to keep you from what you want to do in life. Guess what Hugh Laurie, JK Rowling, Lena Dunham and Ruby Wax have in common.
Ruby Wax on mental illness
Speaking of the latter – British comedian Ruby Wax has battled depression for years. In this TEDtalk, she tells all about it: ‘Because, you know, the one thing that you get with this disease, this one comes with a package, is you get a real sense of shame, because your friends go, "Oh come on, show me the lump, show me the x-rays," and of course you've got nothing to show.’
Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Jony Ariadi