a moment that resonates

Not really but I wanted to post about a documentary I watched last night by well know English actor, writer, comic and all-round entertainer Stephen Fry about his battle with manic depression.

It was extraordinary because it was an exploration of the illness and its treatment from his own point of view; that is, the point of view of someone with this mental illness.

He also took the time to share experiences with other people who have been diagnosed with the disease, which gave the viewer a deeper appreciation of how manic depression can be both debilitating and exhilarating.

All in all, it was his very personal journey through this disturbing landscape made even the more powerful, I think, because of his and others willingness to discuss their own reactions – not necessarily that of others – to their ill health.

The latter especially resonated with me for, although I do not have manic depression, I do suffer from depression.

It took a very, very long time for me to admit my mental illness not only because of the stigma, but because of my pride.

Admitting I needed help with my depression was akin to admitting defeat. I was so angry at myself for not being able to cope that I delayed seeking treatment until I had reached breaking point.

I won’t bore you – or myself *g* – by going into the details of my personal experience, but I will say, that although I am off my medication and am managing pretty well, no one but another sufferer can imagine what you put yourself through.

On top of the sadness, you have feelings of self-hatred, anger and shame, which many people think they should hide by showing a smiling, happy face to the world and this in turn adds to the burden you constantly carry with you. At least, that’s what it was – and sometimes still is – like for me.

Anyway, this post was not meant to be a downer – hey, I get to tell jokes like this 🙂 – , but rather just the need to chat a (very) little about my own experience after being inspired by the terrific Stephen Fry.

If you do get the chance to watch this documentary I would strongly suggest you do.

Depression is a widespread illness in our society and, with predictions it is likely to increase because of the stressful socio-economic situations many in the world now find themselves, I think it’s something with which we should all be more aware.

About Kris

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13 Responses to a moment that resonates

  1. Jenre says:

    I’ve seen this documentary. It was shown on the BBC last year. I agree with you Kris, it was very thought provoking and sensitively done, especially when Stephen Fry shared his own experiences. It certainly made me look at him, as a celebrity, in a different way.I’ve never suffered from depression myself, but I have helped a friend who was depressed (she even came to live with us for a while) so I have got some experience of how terrible and debilitating this condition is, even if it is from the experience of someone from the outside.

  2. Jenre says:

    On a side note, I clicked on the link for the documentary and got completely sucked in at looking at your TV schedule.Some of the stuff is from Britain and some of it, well, I don’t know what to say really, except that you Australians have an odd taste in TV!

  3. Kris says:

    It was a terrific documentary, wasn’t it Jen. Being a celebrity, I think Stephen Fry showed amazing courage to talk about his experiences, including his suicide attempts, running and hiding away as well as his manic episodes, so openly. It was indeed very thought provoking.From my personal experience one of the most important things is having a support base – friends, family, professionals, etc – just like you were with your friend, which was a pretty great thing for you to do Jen. I – and others – sometimes feel guilty about being too much of a burden so I have a tendency to be even more smiley-facey when I’m feeling this way. And then I get angry and frustrated because I don’t want to be happy and I can’t understand how people can’t see how I’m truly feeling. It’s a vicious cycle.Jen, I would say ‘odd’ covers about 80% of what’s on our tellie so you need to be more specific. LOL. Does telling you the ABC is government-funded, which focuses on fostering OZ endeavours and journalism/ news/ docos help with your understanding of that particular channel??

  4. K. Z. Snow says:

    Courageous post, Kris. It really is astonishing, and regrettable, how many people suffer in silence for all sorts of misguided reasons.I once sat in an emergency room and held the hand of a friend who’d tried to kill herself. I had a lover with razor scars on his wrists. Too few people understand that depression isn’t simply a temporary case of the blues or an indulgence in self-pity. Afflicted persons can’t just snap out of it.And manic episodes? Yikes, I can’t begin to imagine the feeling. I read the biography of Robert Lowell, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, who suffered from manic depression or bipolarism. Chilling, to be so brilliant yet so at the mercy of a some mysterious, biochemical assailant. Damn, I wish I could see that documentary.

  5. Ozakie says:

    Kris,Pls bear with me bc this post may be a little long bc it is very emotional for me to write.I feel and completely understand what your battle with depression is because I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2004. It derailed me bc I was suffering from it for years and didnt know it. I had to withdrew from college bc my grades were too bad (I graduated with honors from high school and in the 10% of my class) It was devastating. Im still playing catchup.I can’t even tell you how many times I was told to “snap out of it”, “its all in your mind”, “pray about it. Its the devil” even though I was down to 100 lbs, feeling like I was dying inside literally and staying in bed for days in a stretch. Crying till my tear ducts are dry. The suffering of my depression was exasperated with the fact that in the African-American community mental health and psychiatry is treated with such disdain. Its like if you suffer from cancer, diabetes or any other “physical ailment” with visible symptoms, our society look at you with sympathy. But if it is a mental disease, you become a pariah. I used to tell people if you want to know how clinical depression feels like: Imagine the saddest day in your life. Now multiply that emotion times infinity. Anti-depressants and psychiatrists changed my life. I was functional again. I knew the reason why I didnt like reading anymore, writing, or anything else that used to interest me. I developed my passions again. :-)Im off medication for now but from time to time, my “blues” come back but not with the full strength as before. Depression is such a sneaky disease. It comes at you like a thief in the night bit by bit without u even know it. Putting on the smiley-face when i know deep in my heart im blue is all too familiar. I have learned that its okay if I feel blue. It will past. Its hard when you suffer from clinical depression bc whenever u started to feel blue, you get antsy and wonder if this going to be the blues that finally knocks you out of your loop again. Having that support system, journal writing, exercise, faith in God, Allah, Buddah, Jehovah, The Goddess whoever..anythingn are such great coping mechanisms.Here’s to you Kris a virtual hug through my computer screen to you (hugs) because people like you and me (depressives) are fighters. We may have been knocked around but we are still standing!

  6. Kris says:

    Thank you, KZ. One of the things I’ve realised about myself and by talking to other sufferers is that we are highly critical of ourselves, even unreasonably so. You get to the point sometimes where you begin to think that you should be suffering because your self-worth is so low. It seems ridiculous when I articulate it like that, but it is part of the depression cycle.This is a link to part of the documentary if you are interested in watchiong a snippet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nXgZlvjkAo. It is very personal and extraordinarily honest so much so that it was uncomfortable viewing in some places.

  7. Kris says:

    Ozakie, {{hugs back}} I feel so honoured that you’ve shared your own experience with depression. I cannot begin to tell you how moved I was and am by your story.Besides my own pride, I think one of the reasons I waited so long to deal with my mental illness was because I was known in my family as the ‘strong’ one; the one that others turned to for support and I didn’t want to let anyone down by collapsing in a heap. At the same time I realised I had to do something about my depression, I was dealing with the chronic pain and other health issues associated with my endometriosis. To disassociate myself from the pain I became furious with my body so much so that when I realised my ‘mind’ was also in trouble I went in to extreme denial. I think I terrified my family and later myself about what I was thinking. It was really this that made me decide to do something about how I was feeling.I understand fully what you mean about staying in bed and crying. I call it ‘hiding in my womb’ and I’ve learnt to accept it as one of my main coping mechanisms. Like you, I’ve also learnt to accept that it’s okay to feel sad although I do still get angry and frustrated with myself.We are survivors, Ozakie. In fact, I have an anthem, which you may be familiar with *wink*. I’ll let you borrow it if you want. Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv6lHwWwO3w. *g*If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m only a virtual thought away. {{GREAT BIG HUGS}}

  8. K. Z. Snow says:

    Thanks for the link, Kris.How very strange. That depressive friend of mine who tried to commit suicide also suffered from endometriosis.

  9. Kris says:

    KZ, My doctors told me that pain and depression go hand in hand. With endometriosis you have the additional inbalances cause by hormones. I’m not sure about your friend’s expereince, but I was all over the place with the hormones they were feeding me as part of the treatment for my endo. I actually ended up having an accidental overdose caused by the mix of medications for my endo and for my depression. I was extraordinarily lucky at the time because I was driving and no one else was hurt. It was a wake up call for me that I needed to explore other ways to cope with both illnesses.

  10. Tam says:

    So many people have been touched by depression including me. My ex has been on medication for decades, about 4 months before my daughter was born I was diagnosed. I refused to take meds because I was afraid of what it would do. After she was born it got worse. But I know everyone’s depression manifests itself different. I never lay in bed and cried, that would have meant feeling something. I could sit and stare into space for hours, not moving, not thinking, just sitting. I might think “huh, I’m thirsty” but wouldn’t actually get up and drink something. I took meds and got “better” so I stopped. We moved to Europe and it started again, slowly but surely. But I continued to work full-time, come home and look after my daughter, cook dinner, clean and the stare into space. My ex may not have been perfect but he pushed me to go to the Dr. I tried a variety of drugs and eventually found a solution. Again I stopped and after we moved back to Canada, split up, etc. it got worse again. This time I had to take a 6 week leave from work. I again got better and sometimes would stop taking meds then it got worse and I’d start again. Finally I stopped taking depo-provera, stopped taking the meds and I haven’t since. Its been about 5 years now. I’m wondering if the depo wasn’t making it worse for me. I lived far from my extended family while all this was going on and to be honest know one knew for years that I was on medication. It wasn’t that I kept it a secret, it just didn’t come up. I continued to work and raise my daughter so it wasn’t obvious. Very few people at work knew. I still worry sometimes. When I feel like I can’t focus, when I spent 48 hours in a week reading and nothing else, when I surf the net at work all day, I wonder if its coming back or if I’m just being paranoid and going through a normal slump. I fear for my daughter with two parents who have suffered depression. My ex has a type of manic depression but never gets really manic. He’ll be on meds for life. I know it can be inherited, what are her chances of escaping it? I keep an eye on her but how much is normal 13 year old teen girl angst? So yeah, depression is a bitch and my aunt suffers greatly and its hard for my Mom who lives closer to her to understand that she just can’t get up and go out and weed the garden. Just do it. I try to explain and she tries to understand but until you’ve been there its impossible to really know that know matter how hard you WANT to do something, you just can’t. Great post and thanks for sharing something so personal.

  11. Kris says:

    Thank YOU for sharing your story, Tam.I had a similar experience with anti-depressants; going off and on, increasing and decreasing the dosage. To be honest, I think I would still be like this if I hadn’t overdosed and blacked out in my car. It quite frankly scared the shit out of me and my family and made me determined to find other ways of coping, even if I do still get worried about how down I’m feeling. So, I hide in ‘my womb’. I turn off all the phones, close up the house, and I read or I sit or I lay. I’m very lucky because I work for myself and the only responsibilities I have are my boy kittens so in many ways I can ‘afford’ to act this way when I need a ‘time-out’ from regular life to deal.The documentary that inspired this discussion had an amazing section in it about a woman with bipolar and the ways which she and her family (partner and 3 kids – the oldest would have been a teenager) deal with her illness. Because both she and her partner have been open about her condition with the kids they had a very down-to-earth attitude – believe me the question was asked of them – about her mood swings. It was extremely moving and I was in tears by the time the scene was over.I think it is very hard for someone who hasn’t gone through it – no matter how empathetic they may be – to understand how difficult dealing with depression can be. There have been many times when I’ve said to myself ‘ok Kris. time’s up – let’s get on with it.’ Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t; (you’re right) no matter how much I WANT it to.Thanks again Tam and you know where I am – well, besides the whole other side of the planet thing – if you ever need someone to talk to. I’m here and I know.

  12. jessewave says:

    WOW Kris, Tam, and Ozakie and I guess KZ to some extentI just clicked on this post and realized how little one really “knows” someone else. I can empathize with all of you since one of my best friends for 25 years is seriously depressed because of health and family concerns. Susan has been a severe diabetic for almost 30 years and is now a shadow of her former self. Gone is the woman who used to go bar hopping with me and be my travel companion. We went on a trip to a resort in St. Maartens 2 years ago but it wasn’t a success because of her health and she has now decided, rightfully, that travel is no longer an option for her.Not having suffered from severe depression other than when my dog of 11 1/2 years Jesse had to be put down, (I grieved more for the damn dog than I did when I divorced my ex), I don’t know what you guys have been going through for years.Ozakie is right when he talks about the Black community and how they look with disdain and disregard at any illness that is not “physical” but mental. They can’t seem to accept it and it’s the same reaction in terms of the same way they hide being homosexual and live “on the down low” by getting married and having children and going to church on Sunday to pray for the “sinners” and “perverts”. This is one reason why I feel so strongly about the lack of acceptance of gays in our society, particularly in the Black community. Ozakie, I have a link I will send you.The stigma attached to depression is gradually being lifted with more and more “celebrities” coming out. Countless movie stars, politicians’ wives, (the politicians themselves are mostly too cowardly to admit it)*g* are gradually admitting that they are clinically depressed – Tipper Gore being one who admitted years ago that she suffered from clinical depression.To all of you if you need to talk to someone I’m at the end of your email. I know it’s not the same as being “there” but it’s better than nothing.Guys you have a lot of courage to get up every day and put one foot in front of the other and on those days when you can’t, well just take a break — your health is more important than anything else as I realize every time I look at my good friend Susan.

  13. Kris says:

    Thank you, Wave.Whether you have gone through it or not, support in the form of friendship, a listening ear or a shoulder is always appreciated. Sometimes it’s just the knowing that there is someone out there willing to help in tough times which makes you feel a bit better.Thank you for extending your hand. The generosity of virtual friends such as yourself never ceases to amaze me. 🙂

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