Friday, January 31, 2014

Depression, Outside looking In

I don't have clinical depression, but I grew up around it. My brother, my sister, my father all have--had--varying degrees and diagnosis.

I am certainly not an expert. I'm a compassionate outsider looking in.

But I hope as someone who has witnessed its aftermath, I can help bring some more understanding around it, especially to those with no experience.

First, I'd want to direct you to someone who not only has experienced it first hand, but who can say it far more eloquently than I can, Mr. Stephen Fry.

Secondly, I really need you to understand this seemingly simple concept: Depression is a disease.

I'm going to pull a page from the article I referenced earlier and I want you to imagine that we're talking about cancer. And think about all the amazing strides we've made in medical science to curing it. Think of all that work and how regrettably in some cases all of that work is still not enough to save a person.

Now imagine that we didn't take cancer seriously. Imagine for a moment that it didn't resonate that small little ache with almost anyone who hears it. Imagine that people judged you rather than embraced you when you told them you had cancer. Imagine feeling embarrassed for just visiting your doctor or taking your medication. That people told you that you just needed to "snap out of it", that you weren't trying hard enough and that's why your tumors were growing.

Gut-wrenchingly horrible, isn't it?

This is how our society treats depression. This is also, perhaps, why the suicide rate is nearly double that of homicide.

Yesterday I talked about my brother and how important it was to take care of yourself.

I was approached by an acquaintance who, despite their good intentions, said perhaps one of the most ignorant response I've ever heard in reaction to suicide. "I don't agree with his decision but I respect that it was his decision."

First, never tell anyone that you respect their loved one's choice to end their own life--you don't know the situation. You also do not know THAT person's mental state and were I far less stable in my mourning process, his words could have caused a whole new set of problems.

Please, understand that suicide is not a 'do-not-resuscitate' request.

Second, it was not his decision. And that is the most important thing of all to remember. My brother struggled with mental illness. When we were younger it manifested in violent fits of rage, as we grew, he turned more inward and while those fits were less common, they were more often turned on himself.

He was sick. And because he was ashamed of that, he didn't get help--he didn't want help. And eventually that disease ate enough of him that he became convinced he did not deserve help.

Joel was right when he said there was nothing any of us could have done to stop him. However, it would be a lie to say that means what happened could not have been prevented. And that's why this cause is so important to me.

He wasn't taking his medication and he refused to talk to anyone about it--friends or professionals.  He had long let the disease rule him.

People deserve to have control over their lives, to be able to think clearly.

Depression doesn't allow that. You can try to down-talk its impact on people's lives all you want but it will not change the fact that it is a mental illness. It is a disease, a sickness, a literal imbalance of chemicals in your body. It needs to be treated with respect and above all it needs to be treated.

A person is not weak for needing medication to get through day-to-day. To feel normal.

People take medication every day for their heart, for diabetes, to keep things like HIV and cancer at bay. Why have we got it in our brains that depression is any different?

Maybe it's that word. The fact that we use it interchangeably for simply feeling sad--for being upset by external causes.

But as someone who has watched it tear at my family for as long as I can remember, please believe me, it's a very real disease. And it's one I intend to fight with all my strength.

If you think you may have clinical depression, please see someone. Do not be ashamed of something you have absolutely no control of. There is no just "snapping out" of a chemical imbalance, just like you can't snap out of having a blood disease or a brain tumor.

It's a hard process, and it will take time to find what's right for you. But it can and will get better. And you deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin. That voice that says you aren't worth it? It's a damn liar. And it could not be more wrong about you.

You, my wonderful friends, are independently awesome.




  1. As someone who was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 12 (13 years ago) and have heard things like; just go for a walk, eat better, snap out of it and a lot of similar things it warms my heart and give me hope for the future when i read this as it shows me that there are people who understand.

  2. Thank you so much for saying this. As someone who has struggled with clinical depression for as long as she can remember, it makes me so happy to know there are people who do understand, when so many others are proud of how little they do understand or care. I am sorry for your loss, and wish I could do something to help you through it. You are a special person for taking the time to care and reaching out to help others, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Thanks for being so focused on this. As someone who has lived with people in my live who have suffered from mental illness, the feeling of hopelessness and uselessness I have felt on not being about to help them, and knowing what I have done to this point for the most part has been the right course of action feels motivating. There are times where I think what I am doing is wrong...glad to hear I am still on the right course. You truly are a wonderful bard

  4. Kiri this is very relevant to me and I will post a longer reply when I'm not on my phone. Thank you

  5. I said thank you during your broadcast last night, but wanted to say it again. Your video yesterday and this post could not have been better timed for me. I have dealt with depression since I was young and struggle with it every day. I have been in and out of therapy and on and off of a number of medications for years but recently reached a point where I was tired of trying. I stopped everything last fall and have been going down hill ever since. After seeing your video yesterday I called my doctor to set up an appointment and will be meeting with her next week to start again. So thank you.

    1. I started to cry a little when I read this. Thank you for trying again. Really. You can beat this <3

    2. I didint know you existed til l about fifteen minutes ago and I have been fighting a slow losing battle with wether or not too live because of my mental illness eats away at me like a maggot but just then I was scrolling threw YouTube and found a video of you and I of course had too watch it because of my weakness for awesomeness and I guess I just wanted to say I know it might not mean much but you gave me one more reason too fight and thanks are in order mental illness is difficult but not impossible too beat or keep at bay and people like you give reason too people like me too fight so thank you random stranger

  6. Ok please forgive me if these thoughts aren't particularly well organized, I'm not very good at talking about feelings and stuff. It isn't done in my family. I've been dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was about 10 years old, I just turned 42 a couple weeks ago. I never been diagnosed as depressed by a mental health professional but I've been on anti-depressants from my GP for about 12 years.They help to a point but they aren't a 'magic pill' that makes everything better. The double wammey for me is also dealing with diabetes, as it turns out fluctuating blood sugar levels effect moods too.
    There have been periods where I felt fine but it inevitably comes crashing back down. After I graduated from college and couldn't find a job in my field it got bad for a while. I've had trouble holding down any job since then and have been unemployed for about 5 years now. Then when my mom died 2 years ago it got bad again. I muddled through as best I could though. I don't have any kind of medical insurance so I've never gotten to have any therapy. I've been to a couple of psychologist visits on referral from my GP but it seems like the appointments always fall on days when I'm felling good, and since I've never acted on any of my darker impulses it seems like they aren't willing to take me seriously. That's just my interpretation of the situation though.
    Right around the time that the G&S vlogger contest has happening I was pretty ready to just be done with everything.
    Then I saw some amazing people, such as our Kiri here as well as a young woman who goes by @HappiLeeErin on twitter and has a youtube channel too and well as a couple of ladies that go by @KaelynAndLucy on twitter and have a youtube channel.
    Between these 3 I decided to stick around now I have a little easier time with my inner struggles. I won't go into the specifics of my current situation unless you want me to but I want to say thank you for being the awesome personal struggles showing me that maybe there is some small amount of hope.

    You are awesome Kiri

  7. thankyou for sharing this your very brave & a remarkable woman for do so & even though i have never suffer from depression it makes me a tiny bit mad that how some people think that "depression" is just a excuse & how they think it is a snap out situation because depression is just like cancer & no matter what kind of cancer it can eat you up i had a friend who's dad hanged himself suffering from this cancer like 3 to 5 years ago ,my dad who died just over three months ago during the years of he's cancer ( bowel cancer that spread to the rest of he's body) was really depressed during the remaining 6 years he had but he did nothing because he knew the cancer was going to get him first