(WARNING: Very long and personal post ahead. Not my usual style, but I’ve done my best to make it as short and useful as possible!)
I don’t generally use this blog as a diary, or a vehicle for expressing thoughts on my personal life. I think any readers I have are here for my thoughts on pop culture rather than the details of my life. However there have been several events covered in the media in Ireland that have made me think, for weeks on end in fact, and formulate some thoughts which I feel are worth sharing, especially for anyone suffering from depression. You might disagree but here goes nothing…
First of all there was the story of Kate Fitzgerald – a talented, intelligent, ambitious, attractive woman who had a bright future ahead of her but who committed suicide in August 2011 at the age of twenty five, apparently due to the effects of clinical depression. A few short months later came the death of Caroline Walsh, beloved and revered literary editor of the Irish Times who died suddenly and was apparently suffering from depression before her death.
Thirdly and most frustratingly, I sat through some of the recent Frontline episode on depression, featuring Minister for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch and broadcaster George Hook. Rarely have I been so enraged as watching that television programme. George Hook, as a sufferer of depression, entirely condemned the use of antidepressants and Kathleen Lynch said that she too “had problems” with antidepressants without giving any real reason why.
Aside from the obvious prejudice it was clear to me that none of the featured speakers or indeed the host, Pat Kenny, knew the difference between clinical and reactive depression. Reactive depression occurs when someone suffers a naturally traumatic event such as a bereavement, a redundancy, or the break-up of a relationship. In this instance therapy can be the most beneficial option, and antidepressants may be used in the short term to give the sufferer some support while undergoing counselling. Clinical depression is a different animal altogether. It does not depend on your life circumstance, it depends on the chemical reactions in your brain. It is similar to many physical illnesses in that you require medication to function normally.
I have clinical depression and I have been under the care of a consultant psychiatrist and on antidepressants for almost four years. I can say wholly honestly that without my psychiatrist and without medication, I have no doubt that I would not be here. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m getting heavy BUT if one tablet every day can mean the difference between me being here or me being at the bottom of the Liffey (and there is no hyperbole attached to that statement), how is that a bad thing?!
I am writing about this because I can; because I am not a barrister or a teacher or a nurse or a pilot, or any one of a hundred other professions that would necessitate my lying. Writers are doing well if they’re not raging alcoholics or psychotic loons! I am neither, and clinical depression is really not that scary. As far as I’m concerned I suffer from an illness that is similar to diabetes or epilepsy; a chemical imbalance that needs to be medicated on a daily basis to be normal.
I’m writing this for the people who probably won’t leave comments, the people I don’t know. I’m writing this for anyone who is suffering from depression of any kind and can’t be honest about it. Don’t listen to the George Hooks and naysayers of this world! Go and talk to a medical professional and get the help you need. It’s more common than you think and there is absolutely no shame in it.
People lose hope, they make the most awful decisions of their lives, they end everything, just because they are suffering from an illness. It’s important that we try to change that.