Last month, I wrote a piece for Mamamia’s health and beauty sister site, The Glow. I wrote about how diabetes is sometimes referred to as an invisible illness because often there are no obvious, outward signs that say ‘I live with diabetes’.
This week, there’s been a lot of talk about another invisible illness – depression. I don’t even know where to begin writing about mental health. But I should be – we all should be. And we should be talking about it. A lot.
Not everyone is comfortable talking about their health conditions – whether it is diabetes, cancer, MS or depression. Perhaps there is more ‘acceptance’ of some conditions when compared with others. I know that when it comes to diabetes, the stigma and judgement can be exhausting. I expect that for those living with depression or other mental health conditions, the experience would be similar.
The invisibility of conditions like diabetes or depression is perhaps what terrifies me the most. Being able to conceal what is going on means not getting the support that may be needed. Not everyone knows how to ask for help. Not everyone wants to ask for help.
I am more than happy to talk about my experiences. Many others are too. And when I write about things that I am finding difficult, I feel enveloped with care, support and love. But what about those who don’t? What about those who are keeping things hidden from their loved ones and friends and colleagues?
Should we be more worried about the person who is getting up every morning, going to work and interacting with their colleagues, but has not shared their struggles? Last year, when I wrote about RUOK day, a very clever person (who may or may not be my sister) commented that it’s important to remember those who may appear ‘fine’. She’s right. We don’t think about those people enough.
I don’t have answers for any of this. The death of the magnificent Robin Williams has people talking. How do we keep the discussion going? How do we give people who need help the avenues to ask for it without feeling they will be judged? How do we stop people from taking their lives because they see no other way out? How do I say ‘how can I help’? How can I help?
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”
It’s Friday and I could only think of this clip for this week.