Heart Led Health by Coach Donna

Monday / February 06 / 2012

6 truths to normalizing depression (part I of II)

Now more than a year into my personal journey of depression, I continue to be amazed at the number of us who suffer with the illness and people’s perception of it. The latter often taking the larger toll.

Research tells us 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness.

Taken from the actual comments of my readers, here’s why I believe that stat is so high:

  • My family never talks about it – like it’s some dirty secret.
  • Many of my family members tell me to “just get over it.”
  • Even though depression runs in my family — complete with suicides and suicide attempts — it’s pushed under the carpet as a source of embarrassment.
  • I often wish I was “stronger” and had more faith — and know my family and friends feel likewise, which just makes it worse.
  • Too many people believe that anti-depressants are a weak crutch for a weak condition — but I wouldn’t be alive without them.
  • I fell anxious, tired all the time, “panicky” …and guilty for feeling that way.
  • Only someone with depression truly understands how tough it is.

One reader confessed, “I was the kind of person who equated depression with some sort of personal weakness (…before I’m the one who got depressed).”

How easy it is to pass judgment on a set of circumstances we’ve never been challenged with ourselves. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been guilty of a misperception [every hand shoots up in the air, my own included].

With culpability come the lines we draw in the sand. In a profound guest post, “What nature can teach us about lines in the sand“, Hubs shares his own journey of learning to recognize and appreciate the ebb and flow of life. Freedom was found once he allowed the tides to erase his rigorous lines, enabling him to see perspectives that would otherwise be obstructed.

In human defense, the lines we’ve drawn are part of our innate egocentricity. Not until self-absorbed turns to self-preservation do we pay real attention.

I admit I never gave much consideration to depression until it became the name of the sadness, exhaustion, and apathy which owned me. Never before had I found it so difficult to be me.

I first shared my battle with depression in one of my most vulnerable posts. The behind-the-scenes truth is this: the moment I hit “publish”, a slew of doubts flooded my mind questioning, “Should I have shared all of that!?”, “Will people look at me differently?”

Have I exposed a personal weakness??

I suspected I made a critical error. I even wondered if it would destroy my writing ambitions. All I remember thinking is, “I may never be fully happy or content again.” How utterly discouraging for one in an already seemingly helpless state. Knowing I wasn’t alone, I took the step of vulnerability in hopes of opening a dialogue.

And then… the comments began to pour in. Stories of so many others contending with the same demons. How had I not noticed them before? The beautiful swirling, silken scarf loosened around my throat. The deep breath I sucked in was a lifeline. A lifeline I vowed to share.

Look for the continuation of this post in Part II here…





6 responses to “6 truths to normalizing depression (part I of II)”

  1. Jeff says:

    Donna, I have been on a small dose of Paxil for over ten years. It keeps me going and happy. Every time I try to wean myself off of it, I go back to being angry and anxious.


    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you for sharing, Jeff. I love “going and happy” and am glad you are. My doctor switched me from Lexapro to Pristiq, which I’ve been on for a few months now and so far, so good!


  2. Martin says:

    Hi Donna
    This is a lovely piece.

    You took a very brave but very necessary step in opening up about your depression.

    I think we need to do what you did for two reasons.

    Firstly, it helps us be more authentic. It’s hard to live with depression, it’s harder still to live with it whilst trying to hide it. I think we need to do all we can to nurture our fragile sense of self when we are depressed and living authentically helps with that.

    Second is the greater good argument. The more that people are open about depression, the more it will okay to be open about depression.

    I’ve been more open with people about my depression recently. You’ll even find my picture on my site now. I think it’s the right thing to do – for the reasons I’ve given, but the reality is that it’s no panacea. It doesn’t suddenly make everything right.

    The lines in the sand angle is interesting. I find myself become more rigid in my thinking and more inclined to withdraw behind my lines in the sand when I am depressed.

    Again, I think this is connected to the lost confidence and weaker sense of self that depression brings with it. It’s probably related to the introspective nature of the condition.

    I guess these are all the things that therapies like CBT try to work on.

    Looking forward to Part 2

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I am delighted to hear from you, Martin — and beaming a little to see your smiling face. Talk about brave steps!

      You captured my thoughts in a nutshell with, “The more that people are open about depression, the more it will okay to be open about depression.” — which not only helps the greater good have an educated understanding about depression, it gifts depression sufferers with the freedom to know they’re aren’t suffering with a “personal weakness”.

      Thank you for stopping by. I’m anxious for you to see Part II, too… I’ve got a little surprise for you.


  3. Sue Mills says:

    Donna, Good work, it took a lot of courage to do what you did. Sometimes I wonder if it effects me? Love Sue

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you, Sue. I encourage you to reach out to your doctor to have a conversation about it. You are cherished.


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