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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Guest article: Tara Coffin.

I'm outsourcing my blog for this article. The following is written by my friend Tara, and I highly recommend reading it (...Just with every other post..a huck huck) It's a serious piece, I've written about it before but in a less fluent and elegant way. I normally just throw words on the page like a Pollock piece made of pop culture references and nouns.

“I know I have a good life. That's what's so depressing. I can't help it.” – Stephen Fry

Nowadays, you hear a lot of people talking about depression. It's got a lot more mainstream as a diagnosis, and it's actually possible to admit you have it without people misunderstanding.But that's still a very rare occurrence.I
have clinical depression. No, I'm not feeling a bit glum today. No, I am not a whiny emo teenager, nor do I need to get outside and smile. 
I have clinical fucking depression. It's not like getting a bit sad, or being upset because someone dumped you, or any of that. If you have depression, genuine depression, then you are spending your life walking around with a great big sack of rocks on your head. You can be happy or laugh or enjoy yourself, and like any illness there are always good days and bad days, but that does not change the fact you have an entire boulder balanced precariously up there. When I first started getting counselling, my mother refused to believe there was anything wrong with me because “people with depression can't get angry”. Considering that having a short temper is one of the ten main symptoms, I'm not entirely sure which part of her first class psychology degree she pulled that out of, but prejudices are always there. One of my friends has been diagnosed for years longer than I have; even when she applied for a job no less than a year ago they asked her why she couldn't snap out of it and be happy. These aren't isolated incidents; ask a person with clinical depression how often they get misunderstood and you'll be there all week.

I think one of the biggest problems is that there is no way of definitively separating medically diagnosed depression with the kind that people are talking about when they say they're feeling depressed that day. If we had two separate words in our language for them, I don't think there would be quite so many issues. Half the time, you tell someone you've got depression and they'll go, “Oh, I was depressed over summer, but I got out in the sun and it was fine” because they don't understand that the two are discrete. There are countless self-help websites that people will spout, suggesting things like going for a walk or dancing in your room, and these are great techniques. If you're sad. Not if you have clinical depression. Like I said, it might make me smile and on a good day it sure as hell cheers me up. But it's not a cure in any way or form.
People without depression often fail to understand that it's actually a reason for not being able to do things sometimes. I always try my hardest not to let my depression own me or control me, because I am not my depression. But there are days I have to stay in bed because the simple act of getting up and facing the world is so daunting that it leaves me in tears. Keeping easy to eat food in my bedroom, like apples and bread, becomes essential on bad days. Anything more exhausting than rolling over to spread peanut butter on some dry crackers can floor me. Fortunately, with cognitive behavioural therapy, medication and learning to recognise the signs of a down-spiral, I can mostly avoid these now.
Sometimes, though, I can't. And on those days, forcing a smile, eating a banana or listening to cheery music won't help. In fairness, neither does lying on the bathroom floor in my pyjamas, but I'm going to do that because it's about all I can manage. Just try to bear with me and be supportive, alright? Talk to me if I need it. Don't try to give advice unless you know what you're talking about. And above all, remember I am still a person.

And now for my contribution, a stupid, stupid, stupid picture.

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