I had an interesting experience a few nights ago. While talking with a good friend (I won’t get more specific than that to respect their privacy) we got on the subject of mental illness and depression and our responses to people who have them. We discussed how the knee-jerk response was often to just “cheer up” and be more positive and get over it. I tend to be very open about my experiences with depression and mentioned some of what I had felt when I was at my worst.
Lo and behold, my friend told me that after she’d had her baby, she’d had postpartum depression for a while and how that helped her understand what people with depression felt like. This surprised me, as I’d been in close contact with her after the baby was born and hadn’t had a clue she was going through this. As we continued talking and sharing our respective experiences, it was almost a bit of a relief for me and I got the feeling it was for her as well. There is something truly powerful in being able to talk with somebody about depression who’s actually been there too.
That got me thinking more about the importance of speaking about metal health issues. I know for me, personally, part of what helped me recognize and accept that I had depression was listening to author Robison Wells talk about his mental health issues. His choice to be open about the many challenges he faces inspired me to do the same. I wanted to maybe be for someone else what he had been for me: an example of someone who has mental health issues but deals with them and still lives a great life, or someone who by being open could help someone else recognize that they too are dealing with depression or some other mental health problem. Just like with anything else, I think the more we are open about mental health issues the less stigma there will be attached to it and (hopefully) the more understanding people and society as a whole will be.