Popehat on depression

Just because you're a Type A, "fully invested in the classic American self-image of independence and grit," don't think you couldn't use some help.

Popehat's Ken White discusses his "voluntary" hospitalization for major depression and anxiety (he says it was voluntary in the sense of "you can check yourself in voluntarily, or we will check you in involuntarily"). It's frank, brave and honest, and important.

I've written here about my own bouts with acute situational depression — basically, letting genuinely bad stuff in my life get out past my own capacity to be resilient, so that I went beyond my own capacity to cope and needed help and better tools (for me, it was Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Since then, I've discovered that a lot (most?) of the tough-minded, resilient, successful people I know also struggle with similar issues. The stigma attached to depression keeps the problem out of sight, but never out of mind.

White's piece is important and brave because it shatters the misconception that depression is incompatible with strength and resilience, and because White has plenty of ruthless enemies who could use this to smear him. Also an important read: Charlie Jane Anders's How to Turn Impostor Syndrome Into a Superpower.

Part of my improvement was about taking personal responsibility and achieving some mastery of my condition, as I'll discuss below. But the core of it was admitting that I had to trust and rely on people, and that I needed them to help me, and that I could not just stoic it out all by myself. I had to be okay admitting to other people that I was broken — admitting to colleagues that I needed help at work to get some time to get better, admitting to family that I needed help, admitting to various medicos the extent to which I'm fucked up. Instead of being the guy who can always offer a solution or a plan or a strategy, the one people can count on, the one always ready to take responsibility for results, I had to say "I don't know what to do, and I need help." You can be pressed firmly to the vast bosom of your loving family and friends and still be all alone if you're not ready to say that.

I am incredibly lucky in my family and friends. Not everyone has that support network. Maybe you think you don't. But if you are in pain, your family and friends and coworkers may surprise you. Even if you're on your own, there are dedicated professionals out there whose purpose is helping you. Seek that help. I don't mean "go someplace for an hour to talk, and then go back to work and back to carrying the weight on your shoulders." I mean bring yourself to admitting you can't do it without other people.

If you have a loved one in pain, from my perspective the best thing to do is to say "I don't know what I can do, but whatever it is, I'll do it. I'll help you, and I'll take you to others who can help. Let me help you carry the weight." You can help by eliminating the excuses we use not to get help. "I'll miss work!" I'll cover your shifts. "The kids need me!" The kids can stay with us for a month. "I'll lose my job!" No you won't — I'll go to bat for you. "I don't know who to call!" I'll call for you.

Happy To Be Here [Ken White/Popehat]

(via Dan Hon)

(Image: Depression, R, CC-BY-SA)