Depression isn't a CHOICE, People.

This post was in response to something that has now been removed from the web. The author of the original post, Mary Rose, in comments below has asked that this similarly get removed. While I understand why she thinks post is “hateful,” I respectfully disagree — this is an angry post, and anger was an understandable reaction to what was originally written, from my perspective.
I’m also of the belief that we NEED discussion about these things, and Mary Rose isn’t the first person to maybe be a little quick-worded in writing about something daunting like depression, and therefore I will not be removing this post.
This post should be seen as a snapshot of what someone’s mental process is after reacting to something they take the wrong way.
Anger isn’t hate. It’s a justifiable emotion, and, yeah, I was angry when I wrote this. It doesn’t mean I wish Mary Rose harm, or that I disrespect HER. I took issue with her words, and that’s clear here, I felt. The comments are where to disagree with me, of course.
Times like this are when we learn what kind of reach our language choices have — and LOTS of people are guilty of telling people to cheer up when depressed, whether they mean it as flippantly as it sounds, or not, and it’s to ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE this posting is directed. Thanks for reading.


So, I started my Saturday wanting to drop-kick someone for a post they wrote in which they asserted depression was a choice and one could just happily choose to move on.
Know how I know someone’s never experienced REAL depression?
When they tell you to move on, to “choose” a better attitude, to buck up and deal. C’mon, everybody! GET HAPPY! Let’s watch the Partridge Family and have a love-in!
Here’s an image for you. Tortured guy goes through life dealing with endless depression, finally decides being unhappy to his very core is literally too painful to endure anymore, and kills himself. Let’s say there is a St. Peter and some Pearly Gates. Suicided Dude shows up there, and St. Pete goes, “What the hell are you doing? You coulda just CHOSEN to stop being depressed. Wow. Waste of life there, selfish dick.”
And Suicided Dude’s jaw drops, and he goes, “WHAT? I coulda JUST STOPPED being depressed? Why the fuck didn’t anyone tell me it was like putting on pants? JUST DON’T DO IT? Who knew? Aw, man. Don’t I feel like a dumbass. The next 40 years mighta ROCKED.”
Right. Sounds pretty fucking dumb, doesn’t it?
That’s never gonna happen. Why?
Here’s what Hippy Guru Writer says about “leaving depression behind” in this blog post:

Depression is manifested anger and fear. An extension of the above. Take Usana multivitamins, Univera cell renewal, and exercise for fun. Do it alone if you feel like everyone thinks you’re a loser. Get out of your stale mindset. Enjoy the space inside of yourself and tell the demons inside that they are not welcome there anymore. Tell the part of you that doesn’t believe in you that while you appreciate its special, non verbal brand of tough love, you’re renting all the space inside of you out to new tenants. These new tenants are all the magnificent, hidden, scared, doubtful parts of you that have been beaten down by the giant called depression. Tell it to leave you now. You do not need it to sit on your face anymore.

MULTI-VITAMINS? Really? 30 push-ups? Insta-glee? “Yo, demons! Get outta my space! Hasta la sayonara, BADDY!” What the fuck?
I’d just tell her to fuck off but she’d tell me I’m manifesting my anger and fear. Which, actually, I kind of am.
Namaste. Hakuna matata. Awimbaway!

Image 'Depression' by David Baldinger. Source: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic

Here’s the deal. I’ve been down the depression road and back again. In my descents into darkness, there are a few things I’ve gleaned to be true.
(Reminder: I’m some chick sitting cross-legged on the floor in boxers as I write this, and not a trained professional who bled money for a degree to learn about psychotherapy. Mm-kay?)
Anyhoo. I’ve learned there seems to be both SITUATIONAL and BIOLOGICAL depressions. Now, situational is when it kinda makes sense that you’re down over a long period of time.
Maybe you’ve lost a job, got dumped, shattered your leg when skiing, have creditors chasing you down and no prospects, or maybe you had your mother die. Whatever. Being depressed then not only makes sense, it’s part of being human, and it’s a necessary journey for our growth. It’s not a DEFECT to be ignored and leap-frogged over, it’s a natural situational depression that means our soul’s hurting a little. It may be treated with chemicals, diet, and/or exercise, and that can take the edge off and make fighting one’s way back easier. It still takes a long time to do right.
Biological depressional, however, is a total beast and the reason why it can lead to suicide is because your chemistry overtakes logic, emotion, and everything else. It’s being under a black cloth and not knowing how to find your way out. At its darkest, it is a living hell that isolates you from your dreams, family, friends, and every aspect of your life. Your anger and hopelessness catastrophically cut you off from everything and everyone.
The most insidious part of depression is how it can take over and you’re so incredibly in the dark you don’t even realize it’s an illness. It’s been nearly 6 years since a chemical depression brought me to the brink of suicide, thanks to bad-ass birth control pills I was on that caused an imbalance in me.
The idea of that EVER happening again is terrifying because I had absolutely no control over this darkness that was consuming me for the first 4 months. It was a horrifying descent to the brink of madness for me, and I thank my lucky stars I got past it.
But then assholes like this Hippy Guru Writer come along, who think they’re being helpful for depressed people by going, “Come on, Skippy! You can do it! Just a little hill, and we’ll have climbed right on outta Unhappyville, boys and girls! YAY, HAPPY-CHOICE TIME!”
And do you know what that does to someone who’s actually clinically, biologically depressed? It increases the self-loathing, hopelessness, and frustration, because they remember the 287 times they have gone to bed at night telling themselves it would be better in the morning, promising that they would get up, “do everything right” and have a great day. Then, they get up, a trigger happens, and they’re fighting tears and hyperventilating, just because work beckons in 45 minutes and they need to “pretend” again.
So, on behalf of everyone who’s currently being crushed by depression, I’d like to tell you to fuck right off if you think you’re a part of the solution by telling someone to “get a grip” and move on. They don’t have the objectivity to do it for themselves, thanks to people like you and whatever chemistry’s at fault.
Luckily, I’ve fought depression on both the chemical and situational fronts, and I can tell you it’s as different as summer and winter. In my situational depressions, occasionally things transpire that I find fun and enjoyable, I might even have a whole day or week that’s good, and those are the natural highs/lows of a system that’s functioning properly despite suffering a recent blow the mind needs to heal from.
In my one chemical-based depression based in imbalance, it got darker and darker so that no light entered my life at all. I tried to think my way out of it, do things to cheer myself up, but it often backfired and became worse because it meant I really TRIED, only to FAIL AGAIN, so it perpetuated the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that define true depression.
Of course, being unable to “cheer” myself up then had nothing to do with failure at all — that was the nature of the illness. It took two years to undo, but I did it — with the help of medication, exercise, diet, and great friends around me. There was no one cure. There usually isn’t.
The last year and a bit, I’ve been in a mild situational depression because I knew I was unhappy, and I couldn’t figure out what part of my life was the problem. But that’s not actually a situational depression — it’s just being plain old unhappy, indicating change is needed.
I can’t tell you how many times I tried to “think” myself out of my situational grumpiness, either. There are times when thinking one’s self out of a mood works, but when there are actual causes and those causes haven’t been mitigated, choosing “happy” isn’t usually enough. Sometimes, you actually need to change a lot in your life, and that’s not always an option — especially not in this economy, which has given a lot of people reason to be depressed and scared.
You may think you’re giving depressed people a pep talk, but in actuality, you’re likely part of the problem.
Here’s an idea. Be quiet. Listen. Ask them if they need to talk, and just listen. Sometimes, there are no solutions. Sometimes, it just takes a while of hangin’ on, holdin’ out, and hoping. And most of us do those things in different ways, whether you approve or not.
But if all it took was a decision, they would’ve fucking solved life a while ago. Mm-kay?
Don’t just get off your high horse, shoot it. Please.

15 thoughts on “Depression isn't a CHOICE, People.

  1. Raul

    Knowing the creators of Life As A Human website (they live in Victoria, from what I recall – I met them a few years ago so my memory fades – I’m aging!) and knowing they are actually good people, with good intention, it’s kind of sad that this post went through LAAH.The author had chosen to depict “depression as something you can get rid of by willing it to go away”. I have no doubt her intentions were good, but the strategy is pretty misguided.
    I know very little about depression, only the hundreds of academic articles I have pored over in preparation to help Isabella Mori (who IS a trained psych specialist) organize Mental Health Camp. But having experienced extremely mild forms of depression like SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and knowing how debilitating they are, I can only fathom what effect full-on clinical depression have on people. I have so many good friends who have been afflicted by depression that reading someone taking it lightly as something that can just be “willed to leave you” irks me. And my blood boils.
    On behalf of those people I love (yourself included) whose voice needs to be heard when somebody misinterprets depression and takes it lightly, thanks, Steff.

    1. Mary Rose

      I can’t respond to hate. It’s one of ‘hippy dippy’ ways of dealing with a severe depression I’ve suffered with my whole life.
      I will say this though: I did NOT SAY that depression is chosen. You chose to misinterpret my words.
      I implied, and will now say REALLLLLLLY CLEARLY, that the only thing that effectively helped me to manage my depression was exercise and a clean diet. THE ONLY THING. For me to even share the fact that I know this kind of depression is hard as hell, and the only reason I did, was because I wanted to share what works. AND YES, IT INCLUDES THE HIGHEST QUALITY MICRO-NUTRIENT RICH, BIO-AVAILABLE ANTI-OXIDANTS AND MULTIVITAMINS, which – OTHER THAN BELIEVING IN SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE FUCKIN ILLNESS – is the absolute most important factor in brain health.
      On a note that stems from being a mother who’s survived far worse things, I wish to address your behaviour. If you want to threaten me, call me a cunt, and call me down on your hate blog, I would appreciate it if you came out from behind your computer and faced me. I happen to use all my ‘spare’ time training brutal combat, to prove myself worthy of the life I have been given, and to show my depression that I am stronger than it or I thinks I am. My ‘hippy dippy vitamins’ give me the strength and courage to do so.
      I understand that you are deep in it and therefore I will be compassionate and will not attack back, unless of course you feel the need to be schooled, which I would be happy to do.
      But stop slinging hate, cause it has nowhere to go but back at you and will strengthen your depression.

      1. cwcheeks

        Mary Rose, you’ve done a disservice to those who live with Clinical Depression every day. Depression is not about a stale mindset and those demons inside are very real and very chemical. It’s an insult to those who are deep within the throws of Depression that all they have to do is tell it to go away. There are countless people who wake up every morning wishing it were that simple, but the reality is it is NOT. I feel like you are mistaking low self esteem and a negative self-view with Depression. There’s a huge difference.
        The next time you choose to write about Depression, I recommend you preface your words with the statement that this is what worked for YOU and that the template you’ve applied to your life and the Depression you suffered from are what worked for YOU. Making broad, sweeping statements about “solutions” for Depression are dangerous. You need to take a step back from all of this to look at your words objectively and see how the words you chose to use can be harmful for those who are deeply Depressed and perhaps even suicidal.
        Regardless of whether or not you used the words “Depression is a choice”, it was implied.

        1. Mary Rose

          If people feel what I said was insulting or patronizing, I apologize for my unintentional insensitivity. But had you read any of my work or talked to me for even five minutes, you would have known that it is impossible for me to make light of something I suffer with every day. I was merely trying to explain how in lighter moments, ‘killing the demon’ – naming it and using the mind as the powerful tool it can be is an extremely effective method to validate one’s life, so that, even for a few moments of each day, one can overcome the feeling of not wanting to live anymore. I did not say this because frankly, it’s still too raw and painful for me to want to post publicly.
          Instead of writing 1400 words of hate, why couldn’t you have said something less hurtful? If you understand depression, how could put it on someone else?
          You don’t know me. But I have spent the past decade fighting my way back from a darkness that I would have gladly let swallow me had it not been for the fact that I have a son.
          I don’t know why I inherited this whatever the hell it is, but despite my dis-functions, I absolutely cannot breed anger, hate, fear or doubt in others. Which is why my writing comes across as a little ‘hippy dippy’ as you said and also why, apparently, my words don’t come out right.
          I removed my original post because it was humiliating for me to so horribly misinterpreted.
          Perhaps you could do the same. Out of respect for everyone who needs love and support, instead of hate and negative feedback.

          1. A Scribe Called Steff Post author

            Mary Rose, first, I don’t think the post needed to be removed. I think you could have just written a single line as a disclaimer that says people need to work with doctors or whatever.
            Not everyone is aware of depression, or realizes they’re in it, and I stand by the assertion that such implications are dangerous.
            I realize you think I’m hateful, but I’m not. I was angry, and I think I had the right to have that reaction. Sometimes, anger needs to be expressed, and anger can cause people to learn a lot more than just speaking calmly to something.
            Again, you don’t need to roll as I do or use my kinds of emotions, and I don’t need to mimic you or how you choose to express yourself. The world is big enough for both our writing styles.
            But we BOTH need to use disclaimers, no matter how much experience we have. We both need to see the bigger picture and how much we can HURT people with our flippancy as well as help them.
            Maybe I could soften this post up, but I think it needs to be angry so that EVERYONE who has flippantly spoken on depression can realize it’s a dangerous way to address the topic.
            Hopefully the introduction I’ve written to this piece shows you that I don’t wish you harm or anything, and that it’s the WORDS that made me angry, and that I’m trying to be VERY PROVOCATIVE and create discussion here — and to that end, I’ve been successful, and it’s what we need to do.
            Not all discussion can be happy/fluffy. Sometimes we need to get our angst riled up.
            And you can’t say you don’t get angry — your last comment more or less read like a veiled “I want to kick your ass” threat when you talked about me “getting out” from behind the computer and your “brutal combat” training.
            I’m moving to Victoria and don’t want to have a hate-on with you or anything. I have nothing against you. How you feel about me is your prerogative.
            I just think every blogger needs to address serious topics with wide-angle perspective on how it can be received.
            My posting from this morning addresses my perspective on blogging, ethics, and how we need to write.

          2. Sam

            What about those who are Bi-Polar? Who actually have spent time in Health Centers for depression? Do they have a “Choice”? What happens when the depression runs in the family? Do THEY have a “choice?”
            No, they do not. Its common to run it families. FYI; maybe before you assume shit about you know nothing about? DO SOME RESEARCH!

  2. Leah

    I did 2 psych rotations in nursing school, which, by no means makes me an expert, but has given me experience with people diagnosed with MDD (major depressive disorder). I just wanted to mention that not only can clinical depression happen devoid of a particular bad thing happening to you, but paradoxically it happens to people who seem to have everything going for them. Like you say steph, if they could choose not to be depressed, they would. I believe, like Raul, that the person who wrote that list may have been well-intentioned, but shit like that that trivializes a serious psychiatric disorder does no one any good.

  3. Helen Martin

    You cannot cheer yourself up if you’re depressed. Those take vitamins & exercise recommendations work for people who are sad and self indulgent – that’s why people genuinely fighting depression resent them so much. If you’re “moping around” sure get out in the fresh air and do something positive. If you are depressed it’s not going to cure anything. The only thing it can do is improve your general health so you have a better chance at an abatement of symptoms. It’s the blackness and doom that drives one down so much and it’s difficult to be in public and have the whole thing crash down leaving you doubled up and sobbing. (Did any of us need to read that?) Nevertheless, getting out doesn’t hurt – too much. If it’s situational ,& I’m just coming out of that, it’s mostly a matter of time and doing what needs to be done. The other, worst, kind is something that requires medical treatment. Hang in there the best you can.

  4. Cathy Browne

    I agree with everyone here who has supported Steff’s post, and as usual, I applaud Steff for her honesty and integrity. I’m no stranger to the effects of depression in friends and family (and in myself on and off over the past few years), and it’s definitely NOT a choice.
    It’s unfortunate that the original post was removed, because I would have liked to respond on that site as well. A pity that any perceived ‘negative’ comments won’t be seen there, but I am happy that such a misleading and potentially harmful post is gone.

  5. Shaleen

    I’m suffering through depression right now. It’s been on and off for me since the age of 12/13 and i’m 20 now.
    I don’t know if it’s chemical or situational, as our situation isn’t great but at the same time mt depression seems to just be getting worse and worse, to the point that I’ve started thinking about self-harming again recently, and fleeting thoughts of suicide for a few months now. As far as I know, I wouldn’t go through with either of those things now, but only time will tell.
    I’m so scared to go to my doctors, because I’ve moved town and I have no idea what they will be like, and I’m worried I’ll get a bad doctor that will “brush me off” like my last one did… I can’t stand the thought of pouring my heart out to be looked at like I’m just doing it for attention or money or something.
    My partner is the only thing that’s keeping me going at this point, but even so, it doesn’t stop me from sleeping for 16 hours every night for weeks, of just laying in bed and thinking. I cry a lot, specially if I’ve had to leave my flat more than once every 2 weeks. If I have to go out more than once in a week, that to me, is a busy week, and I can’t handle the stress. My partner is practially my carer. If he didn’t tell me to eat, I wouldn’t eat, if he didn’t tell me to shower, I wouldn’t shower, same if we need to go out, I need to get up atleast 4 hours before we have to be wherever and he has to keep an eye on me and the time so that I get ready on time… It makes me feel kinda pathetic but i know it’s nessisary because I couldn’t do it on my own…
    It makes me feel even worse that I’m totally aware of all this and how wrong it is and how bad for me it is, but even still, I can’t do anything about it!! I’ve tried positive thinking, I’ve tried exersize and diet, it all just made me feel WORSE! I only feel truly content, when I know that I can just stay inside, without getting dressed or doing anything important, lay in bed for at least a week. If I know I have to go out in like, 2/3 days time, i can’t relax! I’m like, mentally preparing myself for 2 days just so I can leave my flat…
    Now… Please, Mary Rose, tell me again how I can choose to change my frame of mind.

  6. Susan

    Oh, crap, the number of times I have been told to snap out of it, go be with happy people, exercise outside, take this, eat that, get right with God, avoid eating all this AND that….and stop being so selfish and self-centred! The joys of living with an illness and having the audacity not to look debilitated. And people wonder why I’m reclusive.
    Thank-you for your honesty, your anger and and your willingness to speak for those of us who are struggling. You give me hope.

    1. A Scribe Called Steff Post author

      Not one of those things will solve it for you. A combination of all of them? Sure! But luck and all that will have to come into play too. Depression is the battle of one’s life, and others don’t get it unless they’ve been there.
      For what it’s worth? I’m still living with “normal” depression and artistic moodiness. I will always be moody, but there’s nothing debilitating about my life today!

Comments are closed.