Letters to the paper are not fact-checked and do not necessarily represent the views of The Bridge.
Thanks for Discussing Depression
I was glad to see Karen Kurle’s article about depression and where to get help. I suffer from suicidal depression. I relapsed this past spring so severely that I was hospitalized for a week. Due in part to a strong genetic history, I’ve had this illness my entire life, although with treatment I’ve managed to have a rewarding career, a great family, and supportive friends. I learned long ago that those who do not suffer from real depression don’t understand it and probably can’t.
The best description I’ve come up with is that depression can place sufferers on one side of an impenetrable glass wall; they can see their loved ones wildly gesturing to connect, but sufferers cannot hear them or reach them. They are alone in a bleak landscape of gray, shadowy sorrow. Once there, their perceptions are so badly distorted that suicide becomes a shockingly seductive option to end the pain and find peace. The chemical imbalances it produces in the brain can be manifest in such symptoms as—among others—loss of appetite, an inability to concentrate, insurmountable fatigue, explosive anger, stumbling gait, and a hunched posture. Some people in its throes can’t even get out of bed.
What I don’t understand is why it’s such a secret. People suffer terribly from depression, even in the early stages when they question why they feel blah, or flat, or sad, or angry all the time. I am impatient with those who tell depressed people to “get over it” or “buck up.” This is ignorant and singularly unhelpful; it only reinforces the loneliness and isolation that depressed people feel. I would also point out that those who are clearly suffering would want to feel better; if a pep talk fixed it, the disease wouldn’t exist.
If someone close to you seems to have depression, don’t demand they meet your expectations. Instead, help them get treatment and be generous with love, patience, and acceptance. Every time I’ve been very sick, my amazing family and wise friends hold me close, emotionally and physically, keeping me safe until my new medications or therapy start to work. I’m not in the least ashamed. Instead, I am very grateful and proud of the hard work I do every day to stay as well as possible. So should everyone who struggles with this deadly disease. It takes real guts to survive severe depression.
Kathy Hollen, Montpelier
Response to Kathy Hollen’s Letter to the Editor
First of all, I want to say thank you to Ms. Hollen for her heartfelt and clear-eyed letter. This is a story of truth and courage from someone who has and continues to meet the challenges associated with living with clinical depression.
As Ms. Hollen expressed so eloquently, this is not a simple or easy journey, but it is one that can be successful when an individual and those around them work together to seek out and then support treatment. Some forms of mental illness can be lifelong challenges and with treatment (preferably early treatment) and ongoing professional, family, community, and self-help, people can recover and live full lives, as it sounds Ms. Hollen is doing.
The stigma associated with mental illness creates additional (and unnecessary) stress for individuals struggling with their mental health. This must change. People’s reluctance to reach out for help because of embarrassment or fear of judgment only worsens an already difficult situation.
If someone has cancer, the flu, or diabetes, they do not feel compelled to hide this from others, thus prolonging their isolation and suffering and potentially waiting until a crisis point to seek the help they need. With early treatment, outcomes typically are good and take less time to occur.
With support from understanding and compassionate family, friends, and professionals, people can more safely take steps to become well again. People suffering internally do not need our judgment, they need our support. Even when we do not understand a person’s outward behaviors, we can still offer hope and support as they navigate their challenges.
Mental health is health, and we need to recognize it as such and support people in moving toward recovery in their lives. We are all in this together.
Kirk Postlewaite, communication and development director, Washington County Mental Health Services
What Do You Think?
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Deadline for the next issue is July 13