Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Janet Street Porter and the rise of depression
I have decided to be brave and post the blog I wrote days ago but was too scared to put up. I feel like I'm finding my voice but at the same time it's not easy to say what you want...
The original article - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1278510/Depression-Its-just-new-trendy-illness.html
The backlash – http://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=393742524134&id=29813531299
You can feel free to hate me and tell me to fuck off but you cannot say that I have no right or idea about what I’m talking about. I am writing from the perspective of a genuine sufferer in response to an article, I am not writing the article myself. I am not a journalist nor am I attempting to me. This is just my space to write about whatever the Hell I want to.
First of all I need to get past the fact that it’s in The Mail. I am fundamentally against everything they stand for. I am anti-monarchy, anti-Conservative, anti-racist and above all else anti-homophobic. I am a left-wing creative writing student with tattoos and piercings and dyed hair, I’m bisexual and unpatriotic and think being sensitive about where you’re from (or anyone else if from) is a complete waste of time. In short, I am not the kind of girl you’d usually find agreeing with anything that’s written on the pages of that ‘newspaper’.
I have also spent nearly half of my life in the ‘crazy’ world of psychiatry and mental health, some of that time on psyche wards, meeting people with mental health issues, talking to them, being friends with them. I am not going to discredit that world at all. I am a part of it. I am, for all intense and purposes, ‘mentally ill’.
Unlike most people I know who have read ‘the article’, I didn’t feel angry or disgusted but found myself thinking seriously about what Porter was trying to say. I get the point that she is trying to make, about being empowered;
"It's bonkers, but instead of feeling overwhelmed, it's more productive to decide what we WON'T do, who we WON'T be bothering to be friends with, and tell ourselves that we are, in our own small way, bloody brilliant every single morning before we get up."
I do think that a lot of women suffer from terrible self-esteem as a result of the pressure to be some kind of 'wonder woman' which undoubtedly causes them problems in their life. But I am not entirely sure that dissatisfaction is the same thing as depression. I agree that the Sixties brought huge changes but it wasn’t all flower power and free love and one of those was a generation who wanted everything and believed that they could (or at least should) have it. If you don’t end up with it you will be unhappy with your lot and if you do end up with it you will be in a constant state of panic as to whether or not you’ll keep it. There is no doubt that this is stress. But stress is a part of life if you want to climb any kind of social or career ladder. It is, fundamentally, a choice that you make. Am I going to aim for the top of settle for wherever life decides to put me? Whether its greed or power or control or just simple self-satisfaction that motivates you makes no difference, it is still a choice.
I am a firm believer in the difference between being unhappy and being clinically depressed. I have friends who tell me that are depressed and I want to punch them because they are not, they are just unhappy with their jobs or their parents or their partners, and maybe that is just life and maybe to some people it isn't and it’s more than they can handle.
I can only speak for myself but I know that I am not a ‘trendy’ depressive. I am not a high flyer; I have very little in the way of career ambition. I have a working class background that is hugely embedded in my psyche, I am passionate about those less fortunate, I believe that poverty should and could be eradicated because there is more than enough money in the world for everyone to be happy and comfortable it’s just not very evenly shared out by governments.
Why am I depressed? Or what makes me qualified to say that what I feel is any different to what these others feel?
When I was sixteen I (unsucessfully) committed suicide just because the debate of whether to or not had been raging in my head for too long I wanted it to stop. It came in one day, for no external reason, it was just there, suddenly, and it consumed me. I take medication and for the most part it’s lost its potency. Things may happen in my life that make me upset or unhappy, but I am always reluctant to use the word depressed because to me, depressed is something so much greater than that.
I spent months in a psychiatric hospital and I know the difference between someone who is genuinely sick and depressed in the true, medical sense, and someone who has bitten off more than they can chew or doesn’t have quite everything that they want and, as much as I hate to admit it I think Porter has a point.
Depression is a word that gets flung around far too lightly, it’s become an adjective, when in reality it is disease that cripples you from the inside and makes the simplest of tasks, like getting dressed and talking to someone, absolutely impossible.
Stress is real, unhappiness is real, and maybe you should talk to someone who can help you balance the weight of things a little easier. But they’re not the same as clinical depression.