Life, Medical Minute

Depression Tips are Bull

If you’re on Facebook, you have undoubtedly come across the “Depression Tips” list. I’m here to tell you that, that’s an absolute crock of bullshit.

Why is it bullshit? Well let’s look at number one on the list. “Shower. Not a bath, a shower.” You have got to be kidding me. I don’t know how many others are like me when we’re depressed but I typically don’t even have the spoons to get my ass out of bed. Confused about spoons? Read my post I am a Spoonie before continuing because I’m about to talk about spoons a lot.

In a depressive episode all I want to do is sleep with maybe two spoons to use; one to take my medicine and one to eat. That’s it. Who has the spoons to even take a shower when they’re in the deep dark recesses of depression?! Not this girl and I’m not ashamed to say that. Depression isn’t supposed to be pretty, it’s ugly.

Another one that made me roll my eyes was “Clean something.” Come again? Do you know how many soda cans and water bottles I can rack up in my room, how many clothes I can pile onto the floor, on a chair, papers I can pile up, because the thought of using a spoon to organize and clean seems too daunting of a task? Or when I even get to the idea of trying to clean I have only half a spoon remaining?

The other things on the list that made me grind my teeth almost to the degree that I’m sure I do when I’m sleeping in a stressed state of mind? “Make food. Make something. Go outside.” It made me want to scream, “Have you even had depression before?!” The things suggested on the list are things that even on my best day I’m limited to depending on the amount of spoons I started my day off with. I could go to work thinking, “I have so many spoons today, I’m going to get so much done,” and then have everything hit the fan and find myself completely depleted before even getting in the car to drive home.

The thing I hate the most beyond the stigma around mental illness is that the word “depressed” has been used as a verb to describe an extreme state of sadness. That’s not depression. If anything, that list should’ve been titled “Things to Boost Your Mood,” or something to that effect because naming it “Depression Tips” can be triggering to those that are currently finding it difficult to maintain and cope during this pandemic. “Depression Tips” makes the entire list appear as those things should be a feasible task. It can make someone feel as though they’re failing because they can’t even manage to do one task.

FUCK THAT. Let’s take a medical minute to be absolutely clear on the symptoms of depression here –

  1. Diminished interest or loss of pleasure of almost all activities.
  2. Significant weight change or appetite disturbance.
  3. Sleep disturbance.
  4. Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate; indecisive.

These symptoms can cause significant distress – did you catch that? I mean, I bolded it for you and everything to put emphasis on it, but I just want to make sure you got it – significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Based on that statement alone, in what sane world does that “Depression Tips” list sound even remotely plausible for someone experiencing a depressive episode? I don’t want to talk to anyone or let alone respond to text messages but you want me to “Call someone.” Yeah, okay – I’ll stay here in a curled up ball with my blinds drawn and my blanket knowing that I’m doing the best that I can at the moment and that’s surviving.

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.” – Bill Clinton

We need to stop using mental illness diagnoses as verbs. We don’t call people by the type of cancer they have and we don’t utilize cancer to describe feelings but why do it with mental illnesses? Using a mental illness diagnosis as a verb muddies the waters in such a way that people who are experiencing episodes look for advice like this and can be instantly discouraged and sent back down the rabbit hole because they’re incapable of completing just one of those tasks described.

Once again – I say fuck that and those lists are bullshit. You are doing great even if it doesn’t always feel like that. You are here, you are surviving, and we all know you’re fighting. Don’t take these tips as the holy grail because I can guarantee that you will be disappointed every time. Rely on the professionals, be honest in your communications about your symptoms so you can get the help you really need, not what what the world thinks you need because they don’t know the difference between being extremely sad and actually having depression.

Until next time – Love, Peace, and Chicken Grease ❤

Reference: Halverston M.D., J.L. (2019) What are the DSM-5 Criteria of Major Depressive Disorder? Retrieved from: https://www.medscape.com/answers/286759-14692/what-are-the-dsm-5-criteria-for-diagnosis-of-major-depressive-disorder-clinical-depression

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