But most of the time, I know that I just have a chemical imbalance that can easily be taken care of. I probably shocked some of you, “coming out” last week about my depression.
I used to think of depression was a disease to be ashamed of – not like cancer or diabetes that only gets sympathy and compassion, depression is often equated with weak-willed and damaged people.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like to think of myself as having a “mental illness.” It sounds embarrassing and shameful and too serious a problem to ever go away. It sounds like a scene out of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It sounds like sooner or later I am going to end up in an institution…which is no laughing matter since, more than a few times, I have felt like that is where I belonged.
Most of the time, I choose to avoid using the “mental illness” label when thinking of myself. It’s a label I want to avoid for several reasons: my self-esteem and self-image, the societal stigma, the prejudice that can take place from an employment standpoint, and even, the occasional raised eyebrow of a friend.
But, in reality, the stigma around depression is even bigger than wanting to avoid a label…for many of us, the societal stigma and potential consequences with work, friendship, etc. is so strong, it often keeps us from asking for help, from getting treatment, from staying on medication, and from feeling good about ourselves.
While it may seem like small consolation, some of the most creative and intelligent people alive today and through history have grappled with this disease. Here are a few who have inspired us, entertained us, and delighted us with their creativity and accomplishments:
Buzz Aldrin...Woody Allen…Hans Christian Andersen… …William Blake…Terry Bradshaw…Art Buchwald…Albert Camus …Winston Churchill…Leonard Cohen …Diana, Princess of Wales…Edgar Degas…John Denver…Charles Dickens…Fyodor Dostoyevsky…Richard Dreyfus…Patty Duke…T.S. Eliot…Harrison Ford…Paul Gauguin…Paul Getty…Vincent van Gogh… Ernest Hemingway… Billy Joel… Heath Ledger…Abraham Lincoln… Michelangelo…Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart…Isaac Newton…Olivia Newton John… Marie Osmond… T. Boone Pickens...John D. Rockefeller… J.K. Rowling… Britney Spears… James Taylor…Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky…Leo Tolstoy…Ted Turner… Brian Wilson…Virginia Woolf…Boris Yeltsin…and the list goes on and on.
So, at least we’re in good company! But I’m not famous (and only slightly eccentric!) so it is truly a big step for me to be “out there” around my depressions. I guess that I am personally sharing so honestly because of a fabulous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:
"Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others."
Right now, I’d say I’m scoring pretty high on all accounts! What do you think?!