When I was officially diagnosed as suffering from major depressive episodes in high school, I was, oddly enough, elated. Yes I was going to get medication, try to understand why I felt the way I did, and try to get better. But more than that, this was validation! This was an excuse! This made me special!
Hey guys, yeah, that’s right, I’m depressed. You know, many creative geniuses had mental illness after all. All my social awkwardness and poor self-discipline? It’s not me, it’s the depression.
Depression was never something to hide. I never felt embarrassed admitting it or talking about it. I didn’t go out of my way to bring it up, but I didn’t care if people knew. It was like I had achieved something. It was also a crutch at times, a convenient excuse. Why would you want to lose that?
Because it was only on those days in between the severe episodes that I actually felt this way. The rest of the time I was too depressed to be this flippant. It does make it hard to stay focused on getting and maintaining recovery, as once you get to a better place, it’s all too easy to fall back into the trap of loving your pain.
This resonates a lot with me. I think it’s true that it’s all too easy to take your diagnosis of depression and use it to explain away negative aspects of your personality etc.
The thing is - it does become part of who you are, and probably will always be. I think there’s a danger of doing yourself a disservice by NOT thinking/explaining that some aspects of you are driven/exacerbated by depression. It’s a balance though, clearly under the illness there is still a personality that has positive and negative aspects to it, but there’s also the black fog of depression on top and it can and does change who you are.
This opens the greater philosophical question of if anyone is ever responsible for his or her actions. I mean ultimately what we do or don’t do is a expression of our extant psychological state. Do we really have free will? To what extent?
Depression deprives one of his or her will; deprives one of the ability to make rational decisions. ADHD deprives one of the ability to self-determinate by interfering with the conscious control of one’s attention. Schizophrenia deprives one of what is considered a rational view of the world…So when I make poor decisions, should I blame myself, or blame my mental state?
On one hand, using mental illness as a sort of shield against self-criticism leads down a bad road whereby I can’t hold myself accountable for anything. I still haven’t done my 2013 taxes, and partly because I told myself that I will never take the time to do my 2013 taxes. At the same time, blaming myself for poor decisions made out of a warped mindset seems counter-productive.
It’s this weird paradox whereby believing in free will is more productive than not believing. But, at the same time, when I still fail, I have to take into account the fact that I’m not right in the head and don’t completely control my actions. Should a dyslexic person be upset with oneself for having difficulty reading?
One could argue, it’s all good so long as I’m working toward getting better. But that’s just the thing: depressed people often don’t want to get better, because depression deprives them of such a desire. As someone with ADHD, just making the phone call to set up an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist is a challenge.