Shame and Responsibility

Is there more depression today, or is the apparent increase just the result of depressed people coming out of the closet?

Nearly 30 years ago, the author William Styron outed himself in these pages as mentally ill. “My days were pervaded by a gray drizzle of unrelenting horror,” he wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article, describing the deep depression that had landed him in the psych ward. He compared the agony of mental illness to that of a heart attack. Pain is pain, whether it’s in the mind or the body. So why, he asked, were depressed people treated as pariahs?

A confession of mental illness might not seem like a big deal now, but it was back then. In the 1980s, “if you were depressed, it was a terrible dark secret that you hid from the world,” according to Andrew Solomon, a historian of mental illness and author of “The Noonday Demon.” “People with depression were seen as pathetic and even dangerous. You didn’t let them near your kids.”
The response to Mr. Styron’s op-ed was immediate. Letters flooded into The New York Times. The readers thanked him, blurted out their stories and begged him for more. “Inadvertently I had helped unlock a closet from which many souls were eager to come out,” Mr. Styron wrote later.
- Pagan Kennedy, The Great God of Depression, NYT, Aug. 3, 2018

ChesBay, Maryland, August 3, 2018

It stopped being a dark secret when we, older folks, refused to let our parents insist that depression is a manifestation of a flawed personality, selfish and lacking in self-discipline, an embarrassment to them, a lack of will power and self control, a "choice." ... I was not diagnosed until I was 46, following my husband's premature death. I suffered incredible shock, and PTSD, after finding his body in the garage, dead of a massive heart attack. My parents had little sympathy, after about a month. They told me I should stop crying, and pull myself together. Stop being so selfish, and dramatic. Be quiet. Stop talking about it. "What's wrong with you, anyway?" This is really how I was treated all my life, but like millions of other boomers, my parents were born in the 20's, lived through the Depression, and fought in WWII, while constantly swallowing their own feelings.

I suffer from life-long, chronic, depression and anxiety syndrome. I take Paxil, EVERY day. Sometimes, I take Klonopin, for anxiety attack. I will take these for the rest of my life, which is so much better, now, than it ever was while not on medication. I am no more "embarrassed" by my condition, than I would be if I were a diabetic. My parents, and millions of other ignorant people, were absolutely wrong about this, sometimes deadly, affliction.
- Comment on Pagan Kennedy, The Great God of Depression, NYT, Aug. 3, 2018
[The unwillingness to accept responsibility, or to feel ashamed, for a condition, now extends even to diabetes. But aren't many diabetics responsible for their failure to resist the temptation to consume too much junk food, which has led to their obesity and diabetes?]

And data from the American Psychological Association published last May supports the idea that we’re more open about dealing with mental health: “A total of 87 percent of American adults agreed that having a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of.... ...
We talk about habits all the time in Smarter Living, but for good reason: They work. Building habits around positive behaviors takes willpower and self-control out of the equation; you just do them. ...
Another tactic is to consider what feels good now... versus what will make you feel good in the long-term — developing a habit around something that genuinely enriches your mental well-being.
- Tim Herrera, How to Make ‘Self-Care’ Actually Feel Like Self-Care, NYT, Nov. 3, 2019

Show php error messages