2 posts tagged “battling depression”

“This’ll make you feel better!î About Depression Advice from people who don’t have depression

Posted August 24th, 2018 by

Martha Mills, a writer for The Guardian, candidly wrote a piece called “’Just go for a run’: testing everyday advice for depression,” where she reviews tips that people unfamiliar with depression have offered her to “keep the blues away.” Check out her assessment of different kinds of advice, plus hear what the PatientsLikeMe community has said about mental health–related tips from the peanut gallery.

Testing depression advice from people who don't have depression

Common pointers put to the test

Why did Martha take on this experiment? In her own words: “Being especially practiced at denial, I decided that I, a mere mortal with a solid history of depressive episodes since childhood, could fake my way out of this oncoming tsunami of debilitating black fog using the advice that people who have never experienced depression trot out – an experiment that could surely only succeed [sidelong glance to camera]. I would improve my diet and exercise, force myself to take up hobbies, I would ‘soldier on until it passed’ and thrust myself (reluctantly) into social situations.”

To sum up her “review”:

  • Working out didn’t work for her and just made her mind “churn” (although she acknowledged that exercise can be a beneficial part of a treatment plan for many people with mental health conditions).
  • Taking up “fun” and sociable new hobbies like tap dancing and pottery — and forcing herself to go on days when she could barely utter a sentence — felt silly and awful.
  • “Soldiering on until it passes” — by going to work and keeping a social calendar despite her despair — didn’t work either… because her depression doesn’t “pass” without proper treatment.

This exercise in denial (while not recommended) resulted in some important takeaways for Martha, such as how people without serious depression don’t fully understand it, plus how important prescription medications are for her particular treatment plan. While some pointers can be beneficial (combined with treatments that work for you), statements like”just do this” feel out-of touch and may be ineffective.

The community’s experiences

Some of the PatientsLikeMe mental health community have shared about their experiences receiving tips on how they “just” need to do “X” (fill in the blank).

Here’s a look at their comments on the topic:

  • Opening up on social media about your depression and how you’re doing lately can bring on lots of comments, like “get off the meds — try natural supplements” and “get out of bed and exercise,” one member says.
  • “I get angry and even more depressed when people don’t understand and say stupid things to me like ‘just get over it.’ It is so hurtful.”
  • “My mother in law gave me a book that said that people could cure themselves naturally,” says another member. “I threw the book away once I read that someone diagnosed with bipolar no longer had symptoms because they were being treated for hypothyroidism.”
  • “I got very angry when I went to a class about juicing and one of the presenters said people with mental illness would be cured if they just juiced enough.”

What kinds of advice have you received from people who don’t totally “get” serious mental health conditions? Has any of it been helpful? How do you respond to unhelpful/unwanted tips? Join PatientsLikeMe today share your experiences.

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Mike Wallace, Depression and Me

Posted June 11th, 2012 by

In honor of Men’s Health Week, we are pleased to present a guest post by PatientsLikeMe member tiredoftired, a young man who has been living with major depressive disorder since 2007.  Don’t miss this moving essay about how Mike Wallace’s passing earlier this year impacted and inspired him.

As I was driving to therapy on an April afternoon, I heard a news report that Mike Wallace, an original host of the television show 60 Minutes, had passed away.  I was intrigued when the short segment highlighted Wallace’s accomplishments in his battle with depression.  I was only somewhat familiar with the show, but it was obvious from the report that he had a decorated career as a journalist and his professional accomplishments could have easily taken the full slot.  Having struggled with depression myself, I felt compelled to investigate his life further.

Mike and Mary Wallace.  Photo Courtesy of CBS News.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work as I was, Wallace was a pioneer of the newsmagazine format, which shaped journalistic television.  He was a pit bull of a correspondent; with his aggressively confrontational approach, he posed direct questions that others were too afraid to ask, often leaving the subject shaken.  Wallace interviewed some of the most eminent, and even fearsome, people and did not hold back on his interrogation-like technique.

But Wallace said that his greatest accomplishment in life was that he survived.  Wallace endured several bouts of severe depression throughout his life, the first of which left him in such emptiness and despair that he attempted suicide as a means of escape.  He used his personal experiences with depression to share ideas that would give other sufferers advice and hope.  Reading about his life made me feel the same comfort he provided to others when he was alive, and I have become encouraged by lessons he transmitted.  Here are the top four:

  • There is no shame in depression: Wallace constantly repeated that depression does not signify an emotional weakness.  The pain, inability to cope and despair are unfathomable to those who have not experienced depression.  It is not a sadness that is surmountable by sheer willpower.  Aside from reassuring sufferers that their pain and disabilities were justified, it comforted them by seeing someone well-respected using his high-profile position to dissolve social stigma.
  • There is no shame in asking for help: The stigma can prevent people from seeking help and make them embarrassed that, unlike others, they are unable to push through sadness themselves.  Wallace said that the single most important thing you can do is to go and talk to someone.  He stressed that it is impossible for one to handle alone, and he encouraged people to seek therapy and take medication, as well as emphasizing the importance of social support from family and friends.
  • You are not alone: During depressive episodes, Wallace often talked to two close friends that also experienced depression.  By talking to those who could truly empathize, he felt comforted and validated.  Not only was he reassured that what he was feeling was normal, they were able to give him valuable insight and ideas.
  • There is a light at the end of the tunnel: Wallace’s friends also gave him hope.  He saw that they had been through the darkness of depression and survived.  And he passed along that message to others. As bad as it seems now, he told people, look at how he emerged from that same prison and went on to live a happy, productive life.

Mike Wallace has inspired me to perpetuate these messages and give others the same comfort and hope he gave me.  Depression is a real medical illness and pursuing treatment is nothing to be embarrassed about. With the help of mental health professionals and a strong support system, we have the ability to fight through the darkness.  By doing that, we can do more than just survive – we can build productive and meaningful lives.

Learn more about Mike Wallace’s struggle with depression in this candid CBS interview from 2006. Also, if you’re living with depression yourself, we invite you to join PatientsLikeMe’s depression community and connect with more than 11,000 others like you.