As a nineteen year old, depressed to the point where I had stopped going to lectures, writing, or eating/ drinking anything besides wine and the occasional vegetable, I went to a doctor to see what I could do about it.
He said: But you’re on paroxetine.
I said: Yes. It isn’t helping.
He said: I mean, what brought this on? Did anything traumatic happen in your childhood?
I said: No.
He said: Well can’t you just… you know… get over this?
I swear that, though the conversation was probably a little longer, this was the crux of it and those were his exact words. Even through a fog of absolute self-hatred I could see why what he was saying was wrong, though it still fuelled my guilt. Some people have real problems. Some people were hurt. I have no right to feel like this. Therefore I am a bad person. Therefore I deserve this. God, this is exhausting, I am going back to bed.
I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation. I didn’t go back to the doctors again for ages. I got more and more ill that year, and eventually got pretty seriously anaemic from a lack of nutrition. Which, honestly, does not help with depression at all.
Eventually I was referred to a psychiatrist who said “You might have bipolar. [it was still a “might” at the time and for quite a while]. Let’s try mood stabilisers. It’s a chemical thing, you know. It does get better.”
And suddenly Edinburgh Uni’s support services decided that I was worth listening to. That is pretty shocking, isn’t it? That depression was seen as something that’s “not really a disability… I don’t know what you can do about it” [University Advice Centre, direct quotation]. Something that couldn’t be helped and should have been caused by something else. Something that couldn’t be classed as purely chemical, something that wasn’t an illness in its own right. Either things have changed by now or Kent Uni just has better services…
But the idea that someone can be told, in essence, that their problem is ridiculous/ untreatable if it has no evident cause and the third anti-depressant hasn’t worked amazingly, they are not worth listening to… that has stayed with me, and continued to enrage me (on behalf of others as well).
Depression is an illness, not a weakness.
See it for what it is, and everyone concerned can have an easier time… especially the person whose very real problem it is.