“Why are they crying? It’s not like it’s that big of a deal,” I thought to myself as my mom sobbed while leaving the examination room. The pediatrician was talking at us, I was only twelve. My younger sisters were sobbing along with my mom, clinging to her side. I was not affected by their hollow cries. Tears seemed align to me, an overreaction to an explanation. The diagnosis of depression was an explanation to me, a heartbreak to my mom. “That’s what’s wrong with me!” I quickly thought when I first heard the news. Apparently, the diagnosis included “non clinical” tagged on at the end. That is what my mom cried most at. At the time I had no idea what that meant. Later, I would learn that it meant outside factors, like home environment or school, caused my depression. Pills could only be a short term solution, since a chemical imbalance was not to blame. I would also learn that my diagnosis would not be taken seriously. I had good grades and trudged to school with minimal whining. This is something that was seen as being a sign of a normal, happy child. Meeting others with depression, I found that I was not the only one that faced the stigma on the effects of depression. Some stigmas make it more difficult for people with depression to cope or seek help.
The first image most people have in their heads when they hear depression is someone who cannot move out of bed. This image includes a person who has no interest in other people and is generally unable to function. Granted, these things can be symptoms of depression. However, it is not always the case. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the criteria for major depression and depressive episodes is; depressed mood or irritability, diminished interest or pleasure, weight gain or loss (5% or more), change in sleep, change in activity, feeling of tiredness or loss of energy, feelings of guilt/worthlessness, decrease in concentration, and/or suicidality. To be diagnosed with depression a person must experience five or more of the nine symptoms, nearly every day for at least two weeks (American Psychiatric Association). A person does not have to have a complete loss of interest. A person does not have to have a combination of symptoms that causes them to be unable to function. Is it possible? Yes. Necessary? No.
There are different degrees of how these symptoms affect people. I had a loss of interest, but not to the point of not doing my school work. I was exhausted all of the time, but I wanted to make my parents proud of me. I felt guilty for being worthless, so I tried in school even more.I was able to force myself out of bed. I did not want to, but I did anyway.
Since I was able to push through each day and fake a smile or laugh, many had no idea of the prognosis. When sent to a counselor to help fix my problems, I was told that I should “just be happy”. Or maybe everything would be better if I start “being a better daughter”. I was, and still am, unsure what that meant. These quick, so called tips helped about as much as a poorly disguised sugar pill. The tips were like rubber bullets being shot at a deranged dog to make it stop barking. All they did was make the dog furious. They made me feel like my disease was all in my head. I felt ashamed. If the adults in my life did not think much of it, then I had to be overreacting, right? In my twelve-year old mind, it had to be my fault. My meetings with the counselor ended after the third session. They ended because I refused to go back, not because I was better. It has been five years, and I have not once gone back to a professional.
In addition to never seeking help, I had felt like I was the only one that was not believed. I was completely wrong. I learned that a friend of mine went through a similar event. She was also diagnosed with depression, and a few other disorders. Her parents believed the diagnosis even less than the adults in my own life. She was not an extreme case. She was not immobile in her bed. She could function on a day to day basis, if she put the extra effort in. Obviously, this meant nothing was wrong with her. To her parents the doctor was paid to make a diagnosis and push pills. This is like ignoring a broken leg because it is “only a limp”. Her depression, as well, did not receive the attention it needed because her symptoms did not fit the criteria people had made up in their minds.
Our youth was a large part of the way people perceived this illness. Since we were so young, to many it seemed only a normal part of growing up, or an over exaggeration. To those people, we were not depressed, but only going through a stage. To us it was, and still is, very real. It was not a normal stage. It was an emotional battleground, and the happy side was losing in scarlet confusion. Since this battle ground was unable to be seen, the cries unable to be heard, many adults chose to live in an ignorant world. If they were to admit that the child was depressed, then someone had to be responsible. If it was their child, their parenting would come into question. If it was bullying, then a school’s disciplinary actions would be scrutinized. No adult wants to take the blame for a child’s emotional turmoil. Everything must be sunshine and smiles.
The life of a depressed person is never sunshine and smiles. Many suffer in silence because of the stigmas of depression. Many are young people who are less likely to be believed. Many people are ignorant on what qualifies depression. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” is a lie.Ignorance is the pain of a depressed being dragged out cruelly. Ignorance is death. Ignorance is a life cut short by the victim’s own hand. This ignorance needs to be fixed. A diagnosis needs to be believed. That is major.
American Psychiatric Association. “Depressive Disorders.” DSM Library. Atypon Literatum,
n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.