5/18/14

Labels

When I was on the airplane flying home from Washington, I made up my mind. The decision I made was to do exactly what I'm doing right this second. I promised myself that I was going to be open about why I was home early from my mission. I decided that I was going to write about it and share with others, with the hope that my experiences might be able to someday help someone else. 

When I made this decision, I knew it came with one very big risk: labels. I knew that as soon as I opened up about having MDD, I would be labeled as "depressed." I want to be clear: I have depression, depression does not have me. Luckily, I haven't had to deal too much with negative labels, but I think it's an issue worth addressing because I know people who haven't been as lucky as me when it comes to the judgments of others. I'm a fan of myth busting, and I think I've done it once before on this blog. But let's do it again:

Myth 1: People with depression alway want to hurt themselves or kill themselves. 
      Do people with heart problems constantly have heart attacks? Nah. It's along the same lines with depression. Just as heart attacks are not always equated with heart problems, the same is true of MDD. 

Myth 2: People with depression are always sad. 
       It's different for everyone. For me, I tend to be tired, numb, or irritable. Just because someone is diagnosed with depression doesn't mean that they are always sad. 

Myth 3: If you have depression, your life is basically gonna suck. 
       Thank heavens for modern medicine and counseling. I have MDD, but at the moment I'm almost completely healthy. My brain just needs a little more attention to keep it healthy than your average person. 

Myth 4: People with depression just drag people down. 
        Ya,  I'm sure some people who are really struggling can be a bit of a downer, but nine times out of ten, they just want someone to listen and someone to care. 

Myth 5: People with depression just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over themselves. 
         Ah. My favorite. Just like keeping our bodies healthy is a combination of activities and nutrients, it's the same with the brain. Telling yourself to lose weight doesn't quite work, and neither does telling yourself to be happy when you have MDD. Sometimes, you need counseling, medication, exercise, AND positive thinking to keep your brain healthy. And that's alright. Positive thinking is a huge helper when fighting depression, but it generally isn't the only tool one should or can use. 

These myths are some of the labels I've faced as I've been open about my depression. Most of the time, the people placing these labels mean well, they truly do. But sometimes, they're just wrong. So the next time you're tempted to label someone as soon as you find out that they struggle with something, consider the labels you would receive if people knew about your challenges. Everybody has a story, and it's up to us to not judge them by their covers.