For all of you that have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for “wellsplaining” you.
It’s a term I made up about the desire to hide depression and it’s underlying symptoms. While it’s ok to be “sad” sometimes, there’s a stigma to having mental illness or depression and I am acknowledging the part I played in keeping anyone feeling suppressed. I’m so sorry. I didn’t see it.
I realized I “wellsplained” an entire group of people.
This apology is to all the people with depression I’ve spoken with, written with, worked with, met, and all of the lovely souls dedicated to helping us spread the word on depression and mental illness at the University of Colorado Depression Center:
I’m sorry. I didn’t get it. I owe you an apology. A huge one.
Please accept my sincere words.
How did I “wellsplain?” I offered a platitude or simple answer for a very complex group of symptoms.
For every time I said, “get more sunshine! Laugh more. SMILE. Get exercise. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins help alleviate depression. Choose to be happy. Eat more whole foods.”
Every time I hear myself saying those things I shudder now. I’m so sorry. They seem so pat.
I didn’t get it. You were so gracious you didn’t even yell at me when I said those things. I disease-shamed you and you were still nice to me.
And yes, each of those things offer help. But one thing alone isn’t the simple answer, I understand that now. Depression is a myriad of symptoms.
The Good Men Project has AMAZING articles on depression, some really courageous people stepped forward to help others understand. I hope to acknowledge them with my apology. This. This too. And this. And oh yes this.
Positive thinking is an excellent tool, which also promotes longevity but it’s not the only tool. Choosing to be happy is great, and it alone won’t necessarily be the only action required (see others here). Getting therapeutic help (professionally I’m a fan of CBT:Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), meeting with a great doctor, increase sunshine, increase sleep, decrease junk food, and increasing serotonin-enhancing foods* (list here) all “help”.
After a car wreck injured my brain last year, I found out a thing (or 200+ things) more about brains.
One thing I learned can happen in concussed brains: there are neurochemical changes that didn’t exist prior to the injury. Neurochemical CHANGES.
(I think I’ve got this science right): The myelin sheath surrounding the axions on the dendrites are commonly sheared in concussive impact. The ones affected are the ones that produce three REALLY IMPORTANT neurotransmitters: dopamine, melatonin, and serotonin. Calmness, happiness, and sleep. All gone. I started to get it. From the inside this time.
Sure I studied neuroscience as it related to motivation, thriving, development, behavior and happiness before the accident; but from the outside. I knew with the training and all the up-to-date research we had (since we taught Suicide Prevention (QPR) at our martial arts studios through The Depression Center), someone with depression had lots of options for treatments. Right?
And for 15 years I’d been working with kids (and adults) on all ends of the spectrum of learning styles and abilities which helped me see how differently brains are abled and wired. From the outside.
But nothing prepared me for the day that I woke up and I was gone. I would have defined myself as happy for no reason. Positive. Energetic. Vibrant. I just woke up that way. I didn’t even have to think about it, I was just bubbly. Effervescent even. I was a Bright Sider. “Well look on the bright side….”
Until I wasn’t.
About a week after the hit and run car accident that totaled my SUV, I woke up confused. Out of it. Simple things didn’t seem so simple anymore, like how to use a microwave. (Which my brain has decided is not good for us anyway, by the way. Same thing as whatever is emitted from my cell phone, thank you Pong case.)
And that natural happiness I had felt all my life seemed like a distant memory. A loop in time. It was almost as if Happy lived at an old friends house. I knew I’d been there, I remembered being there but I couldn’t figure out how to get back there.
And believe me when I tell you this: no amount of sunshine or laughing or choosing happiness was going to suddenly fix my neurotransmitters. No amount of walking was going to help me suddenly find the directions to Happy. Positive thinking couldn’t suddenly un-shear my neurotransmitters and the law of attraction wouldn’t attract newly formed lobes.
I owe everyone with depression (and anxiety) a huge apology and I get it. Please forgive me for being so blasé with my answers.
I really get it from the inside out.
You have my full respect. And I’d love to know what works for you. Because this isn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination.
Did those things I knew about help? Yes.
They helped me find Peace. I took supplements (27). I used meditation daily with Levity (meditation & brain support product) and Holosync (Brain Entrainment). Used a gratitude journal per Dr. James Rouse instructions. I followed sleep hygiene protocol, meditated, and ate serotonin/dopamine-enhancing foods; lived a low stimulus environment for a year. And after four months of hardcore insomnia I started taking Amilitriptiline.
Peace has become my new Happy. Peace has become that feeling I can hang onto, the one I can aspire to have. Happy is still a glimmer, a distant memory. I know I was happy but I can’t remember what it feels like. It’s Out There. And I still make the conscious choice toward positivity every day. I’d love to “Choose Happy”. But my brain literally has no idea WHAT that is now.
For all of you that have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for “wellsplaining” you. Me with my positive thinking and law of attraction and sunshine and green smoothies. While I still believe in those things wholeheartedly, especially the smoothies, I know they aren’t going to “fix” everything. It takes a plan. A strategy. And I understand that now. It takes rigorous actions to hold the high watch (and sometimes I get exhausted from all that rigoring). It takes self-care strategies beyond what I ever imagined and a strategic plan just to stay in Peace.
Peace is my new Happy.
One day I hope that my brain will find her way to Happy again, or maybe I’ll make new friends along the way.
Photo: Getty Images