This is written in response to a comment on my blog, commenting on the post Some Incomplete Thoughts on Mental Illness and Shame:
I’ve not had a mental illness to my knowledge and no depression so I’m willing to concede I know nothing and should not comment but I’m going to anyway.
I love reading your blog but IMHO you think too deeply about the depression and its not healthy.
My suggestion would be to talk to good friends about this but have a break from writing about it for a bit.
Writing might be ‘burning it in’ to the parts of you brain that think deeply and that might be making it harder to resist because depression sort of gets ‘tagged’ to a lot of other thought processes that you have to use daily as part of your life.
Only write about the good things for a bit or the things that make you angry. (I especially like those.)
But not about being depressed. Just try a break for a bit.
No evidence this might work but didn’t want to stay silent and offer nothing. A big virtual hug.
I know you mean well, and I’ll try to take your comment in that spirit. But if you have no personal experience with mental illness, aren’t a trained professional in the field of mental illness, and by your own acknowledgement don’t have any evidence to support the opinions you’re expressing about mental illness, please don’t give advice to mentally ill people on how to manage their illness.
Writing publicly about my depression has been extremely helpful. It helps me process it and make sense of it. It helps alleviate the sense of shame I’ve been made to feel about it. It helps me normalize it, and frame it as simply another illness, like my cancer or the time I had pneumonia — which also helps alleviate the shame. The fact that my writing about it helps others gives meaning to it, which makes it more tolerable. There is no possible way that I’m not going to “think deeply” about my depression — that’s part of the nature of depression — but writing about it helps keep those thoughts from spinning into a secret, self-perpetuating black hole. It helps give me insight into it, helps me crystallize and focus those thoughts in a productive way, and helps me move on from them. And when I write about my depression, I often get good suggestions and ideas on how to manage my depression from other people who experience it. I’m not the only one, either: many people I know who experience depression and other mental illness say that being more public about it has helped them.
And when people tell mentally ill people not to speak about it publicly, It’s nearly impossible to not hear it in the social context of shame and silencing — even if it’s not intended that way.
When you have a voice in your head saying “I shouldn’t comment,” I urge you to listen to it. If you feel driven by compassion to say something, to “not stay silent and offer nothing,” I suggest you try saying, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.” If that doesn’t seem like enough, you can add, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.” But please don’t tell mentally ill people to shut up about our illness. Thanks.