I don’t want this to be a ‘hot take’ about recent celebrity suicides. It isn’t that. Not at all. For a society that is, on the outside at least, so accepting about mental illness and depression – the bottom line is, we’re not. Not much after another death has been announced, well-meaning folk implore their friends to talk to them if they are feeling down, or suicidal. “My DMs are open, if you’re suffering, please reach out to me!” or similar appear in timelines, and it’s a lovely gesture. The thing is, we just can’t talk about depression.
“How are you?”
“Well, if I’m honest, I’ve been feeling pretty low and sometimes terrible thoughts come into my mind and it’s REALLY hard not to act on them.”
“Christ! You poor thing! You know, that sometimes happens to me, it’s really scary – isn’t it?”
Those are the kind of conversations we SHOULD have.
“How are you?”
“Yep, Good. You?”
These are the conversations we do have.
Depression for so many is something we suffer in silence with, even those closest to you might not even spot it until it’s far too late. The descent into it isn’t normally a quick thing, it’s always there, slowly pushing you down, one thing on top of another. A quicksand you’re sliding into with a size 10 boot squashing gently upon your head. The descent is so slow, people probably won’t notice it.
As well as that, we’re becoming a society that’s always on show. Updates on social media, pictures and video of everything we do, shared the instant we’ve done it. You’d think there would be no-where to hide your depression, we’re putting ourselves ‘out there’ constantly changes would be easy to spot. No. They aren’t. So many of us are high functioning depressives now, it’s easy to smile for the camera, joyfully check in to somewhere fun and look like everything is just dandy. No one wants to be the person saying – “I’m really struggling here, can someone chat?”.
We’ve never been so connected to our friends, families and strangers, but because our interactions are mostly digital, we miss the nuances in actual physical contact. We’re losing the art of spotting body language cues or hearing changes in the way people talk. We’ll just happily consume their filtered smiling selfies and their positive social media, believing that everything is fine, and we can carry on our day.
We need to talk more, we need to interact with people more. Checking in on a mate isn’t about scrolling past them on social media and liking a picture. We used to talk, we used to hang out, we just nod to each other through likes and pithy comments.
I’m guilty of being a high functioning depressive. I’ve had massive bouts of depression as an adult. It’s been bloody dreadful at times, the worst you can imagine, and then some. Most people though don’t know it, because, like so many, it’s hidden away. I’ve concealed it by my public persona, the well-crafted mask of social media. Before any of you worry – I’m actually great at the moment, probably better than I’ve been in a very long time. I’m calm, content and SO excited about the future. It’s lovely! I know what it’s like to sit on the edge of the dark precipice.
When someone else slips away, and everyone is shocked and aghast – “Well, I saw them a few days before, and they were laughing!” or “Oh, I knew they were a bit down, but they seemed okay when I messaged them last”. I’m neither shocked, or aghast. We don’t truly know what’s going on with anyone any more. I’ve been the one smiling and laughing whilst inside I’m broken. I’ve slicked my hair and chucked up a selfie when I’m at a low ebb. It’s easy to hide behind these things than explain the horrible truth, to have those dark conversations – a quick smile, a pithy tweet or status update will show the world that you’re still breathing, even when you wish you weren’t.
We don’t talk about depression because we just don’t talk full stop.
What’s the answer? It’s easy to blame social media, but you probably wouldn’t be reading this unless it appeared on your feed. Social Media is the new normal now, it’s what we do, and it’s what we’ve become. The issue is with US as humans in 2019. We need to talk more about everything, life, death, money, politics and how we’re actually feeling. It’s not always easy, it’s not always pleasant, but it needs doing. We’ll always tell ourselves we’re too busy to do stuff, it’s ‘hard to get together’, it’s not. I can guarantee in a week, you’ve probably spent more time browsing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram nosing over other people’s lives than it would ever take to go out with an old friend a quick drink. Social Media is SO EASY though, you can fit it in when work is quiet, or you’re sat on the toilet – I completely understand it. But who wants to hear a friend is dead when you’re sat on the toilet?
Let’s all try to talk more?