Me, Depression & World Mental Health Day.

stormy cloudsAwhile back I saw a colleague melting down. I saw it in a way that only the age of social media can provide, through Facebook status updates. I read the erratic, emotional posts that ranged from extreme sympathy-inducing sadness to manic over-activity to occasional rage-filled lashing out. I saw it in a way that only someone with mental illness can. A cringe, some familiarity, recognition that gives way to concern. I debated what to do about it. This wasn’t someone I had a warm fuzzy relationship with and I wasn’t sure how well my concern would be received. But I decided to speak up, because really, if this chic drove herself off a bridge, I would feel pretty damn bad about not speaking up.

So I sent a message, phrased as gently as possible, including a bit about my own experience with depression, making note of concern and asking if I could be of help. Because, hey, I’ve been there. It was not well received. It was tossed back in my face, and I was told that just because I’m sick doesn’t mean everyone is. It was stated in less kind words than that. So I moved on.

In a recent group conversation, this same colleague suggested she was of great character for not telling everyone about my mental illness.  Specifically, ” {she}…said the same thing about me and I do not have a mental disorder, some by people who admit to having one…I don’t talk about those that have admitted they have one and smear me saying I do.”

There are a few things really messed up about this.

  1. The notion that sharing my experience and concern is an ‘admission’ of something I should feel guilty or embarrassed about.
  2. The notion that privately expressing concern equates to ‘smearing’ someone’s reputation.

And frankly, it pisses me off that a massage therapist thinks this way. Aren’t we supposed to understand basic health issues? Does a wellness professional really think mental illness is something someone should be ashamed of? The very idea that knowledge of my depression is some kind of secret weapon she could choose to unleash, is nine kinds of fucked up.

But I’ll diffuse this weapon right now. I have Depression. As in: Major depressive disorder (MDD) (also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder; or as recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes thanks wikipedia!) I am not ashamed of this. I am not embarrassed by this. It is not a secret, and I have publicly made reference to it before.

I am fortunate that my particular variety is pretty mild, well controlled with a reasonably healthy lifestyle and sometimes with medication. I am surrounded by friends who keep an eye on me. I am usually able to recognize when I’m falling into an episode, I notice quickly when my day-to-day functioning gets wonky. I am capable of asking for help when I need it. Again, I am very, very fortunate.

You cannot hurt me by sharing this information. It is not a weapon. And since an estimated 1 in 10 adults in the United States suffers from some kind of depression, I’m gonna guess I’ll be getting a handful of emails today saying, “Hey, thanks for speaking up on this.”

Know what else is awesome? Massage can be useful in treating depression (and anxiety). Really. My friend Dr. Christopher Moyer can fill you in on that here.  Or go one step further and check out his brilliant book, Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice, co-authored with Trish Dryden. They’ve got a whole chapter on it!

But I digress.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. The team at the Alternative Marketing Project was thrilled to focus our blog post and a graphic on that topic this month. The content is free for people who subscribe. But I’m in a good mood (thanks ssri’s!) so I’ve decided to let everyone see and use the October content, even if you haven’t subscribed. You can check it out here.

As for me? I’ll be joining Ryan Hoyme and Irene Diamond, two people I greatly admire for their willingness to talk about mental illness.

Bonus: Here’s a kick-assk TedxTalk from Amber Naslund, “Mind games – Transcending the messiness of mental illness” Watch it. Share it. Learn.

And to the colleague who thought she could shame me I say, “Your absurdity and incompetence is showing. May wanna tuck that in.”
Image courtesy of pakorn/

10 thoughts on “Me, Depression & World Mental Health Day.

  1. Thank you for sharing this Allissa! It has just been 2 weeks that I have had to learn more about this because of someone close who has depression. It is really an eye opener for me. I will be looking at the links you posted and for sure listening in to Ryan’s show. Thank you once again!

  2. You are courageous! I commend you for your success to continue on with a business, this site, etc. I enjoy your candidness and not-afraid-to-speak your mind.

  3. sometimes “keeping your mouth shut” isn’t the way to respond..sometimes silence IS NOT golden..thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the links as I think all of us have a lot to learn! great post – Keep ’em a’coming!

  4. Thanks Allissa. Your posts are so refreshing. I, too, am a one in ten. Depression sucks. I talk about it and I’m not ashamed. I think it makes you and me better massage therapists. We have a level of empathy that you can only have if you’ve climbed out of that deep,dark hole called clinical depression. No one can truly understand it unless they have been there.

  5. Thanks Allisa for sharing. I know from my experience that it is crutial to have a personal support system. Having people who understand the condition and who support me when I am in the least optimal condition around has been the most effictive way to survive and thrive. I’m glad that you have your support people.

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  7. Allissa, you really should be careful with the things you put out in the blogosphere. You could wind up touching a heart or wetting some eyes (mine). I knew from previous correspondence that some of your clientele consisted of some who were mentally ill but I didn’t know of your own diagnosis. I, too, count myself fortunate despite struggling with manic-depression and another thing or two. I am among the hypersensitive (as I assume you are) and sometimes wish I could kick my empathy to the curb but then you go and write such stuff as this and it makes me want to just hug you. Thank you very much for sharing this part of you.

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