Over at Jeremy Freese's Weblog, he wrote about the experiences of a friend who has been depressed in the past, and is now trying to quit smoking:
But as much of a pain-in-the-ass trying to quit smoking is, it's nothing - NOTHING - compared to the mental battles I had with myself when I was really depressed. Like trying to talk myself into getting out of bed, or making a phone call. Cycling through self-recrimination, shame, and despair, and still trying to function like a normal human being. It makes me sad that everyone I've told about quitting smoking is all "wow, that's really tough, you're doing great just to make it 3 days" or whatever. But when you're depressed, no one is all "great job for not killing yourself for 3 whole days!" or "wow, that's really tough, doing a load of laundry is really hard". It's just like people's perceptions of how difficult it is to quit smoking vs. how difficult it is to be depressed are way out of whack.
It's rare to read such a genuine account of depression.
So many days, I was psyched because the kids were wearing clean clothes and everyone had something to eat at some point. Laundry has its own particular evil... it is relentless. My own "depression yardstick" happens to be how long the clean laundry stays in the laundry basket, or the dryer...
Perhaps it's for the best that more people know how to talk about quitting smoking than they do dealing with depression. Maybe it means that more people have quit smoking, or personally know people who have quit smoking, than have been, or know someone who is, depressed?
Certainly quitting smoking and the evils of tobacco get a lot more media space than depression does. I don't think we can easily change that, either: smoking has panache even if it's "evil", but still anyone who quits has "guts" and is "doing the right thing." Whereas depression is never anything but a downer, no pun intended.
Consider: everyone knows when you're quitting smoking, people make a point of involving their social circles and their families and getting their support (or at least, fending off unwitting sabotage.) When I'm depressed, I don't talk about it. It's part of the pathology of the disease. I think that's common among people with depression -- we deprive ourselves of the support systems that hopeful soon-to-be-ex-smokers automatically tap into.
There's still so much stigma attached to depression: "there's nothing really wrong with me...it's all in my head." No one chooses to be depressed, but nearly everyone I know who has been through depression (self included) feels some sense of responsibility about it. It's ridiculous, really. I have no guilt over my rheumatoid arthritis or my thyroid cancer. Why is the depression any different?
It was a comfort today to read about another soul somewhere having those same arguments with self, and going through the familiar agonies of guilt and despair. It's not just because misery loves company. It's because here was another soul who had come through everything that I've been through, and was clearly standing, very solidly, on the other side.
See? There's a reason for hope.