Depression: The First Opine

Depression sucks. If there was one word that could sum it up, that would be it. For how long depression has been known as a treatable condition, it's amazing how the stigma surrounding it persists. Depression is a disease, just as alcoholism is every bit a disease, just as every bit cancer is a disease. Yet you would never tell someone with cancer to stop having cancer and get over it. This is neither intelligent, nor a helpful thing to say. The same thing applies with telling someone with depression to stop being sad and cheer up already.

Clearly there is a lot to understand here. From time to time, I plan to have these opines on depression with the hope that people will get talking and actually offer potential solutions for their friends and family other than to "get over it."

I was diagnosed as clinically depressed years ago, but never wanted to receive treatment for it. I viewed it as a shameful thing to have and for the longest time none of my closest friends even knew that I was taking medication or seeing a therapist. The fear was mostly rooted in the fact that my friends might treat me differently if they knew just how messed up I was in the head. I'm glad this came about later in life because it goes to show just how many awesome, genuine friendships I've made over the years. I just did not have the same kind of mental support while in middle school or high school.

I share with you my latest personal therapeutic experience...

A few weeks ago, C and I watched the movie "Inside Out" from Pixar. If you haven't seen the movie I highly recommend it because it's very well done. It is the story of a young girl named Riley who is uprooted from her life in Minnesota and moves to San Francisco, and her mind is controlled by five emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness - all of which have their own agenda the best way for her to navigate the new city, handle her family dynamics, and adapt to a new school. As soon as the character Sadness spoke, C burst out laughing saying, "she sounds exactly like you." I couldn't argue with that assessment, because it's true. I am a sad person. Not all the time of course, but a good 40%+ of the time.

It's funny how few things I've read about the connection, but "Inside Out" is almost an identical psychological tool to "Winnie the Pooh" - one of my childhood favorites. If you think about it, the characters play very similar roles, though there are only two that perfectly overlap - Eeyore and Sadness. All of the characters experience a wide array of emotions, but Eeyore rarely experiences any emotion other than sadness.

At first I thought it was an insult to be compared to Sadness, but when I thought about the fact that she and Eeyore are practically the same character, it really is not an insult at all. I had one therapist who quoted a famous psychologist textbook that said people are either like Piglet or like Eeyore - they're either anxious or depressed. I disagree. Every character in Winne the Pooh had a different mental disorder that made them unique, none was better than the other, yet your favorite really depended on which character your mental disorder was aligned with...

Pooh clearly exhibits all the signs of an addict, evidenced by how far he's willing to go to get a taste of honey.

Piglet has general anxiety, he worries about everything and this is probably why he has a speech impediment.

Owl has dyslexia; he is far and away the most intelligent of all the characters but he often spells things wrong, usually missing letters from words or writing things backwards.

Tigger obviously has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He does everything on an impulse and can never sit still for a few minutes, even when he's sleeping.

Kanga has social anxiety disorder; she's always obsessing over her son, Roo and socially suffocates him by not letting him venture out to make his own mistakes and learn from them.

Rabbit is major OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) plain and simple. He loves cleanliness, organization and can never calmly cope when things are messed up. The dude never relaxes.

Christopher Robin is totally schizophrenic. Seriously. All of his 'friends' are stuffed animals and the characters he makes up are pretty much different facets of his own multi-faceted personality.

Lastly, is the one I can relate to most:

Eeyore is a major depressive; he has a negative outlook on life, is always down in the dumps and rarely shows signs of joy or excitement.

However, what I found most interesting about Eeyore (and perhaps you've read this places too) is that even though his clinically depressed, all his friends still invite him to participate in all their adventures and outings, though he doesn't go with them all of the time. None of his friends expect him to pretend to feel happy for their sake; they love him just the way he is. His friends never tell him to "get over it," nor do they leave him behind when they think he's ruining the fun. Most importantly, they never ask him to change.

I think the broader lesson from both is that we are controlled by ALL five emotions at some point or another, but when it comes to which character is best to emulate, just know that ALL of them are eff'd up in their own way. None of them are enemies, they are all friends, and this is how you should go about treating a friend with depression: just like everyone else.

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