When you live with depression and anxiety it seems everything gets harder.
I’ve been reminded this week about Queen front man Freddie Mercury who died of an AIDS related illness in 1991. Although speculation about Mercury’s “illness” was rife at the time, an announcement that he had contracted AIDS was only made the day before he died.
It was clear from Mercury’s work in the months before his death that he was clearly unwell. And, whilst I won’t speculate on his illness or his motivation behind the secrecy he maintained, it’s clear that in 1991 AIDS was a poorly understood “gay” disease. If you contracted it, you would be caste in a mould of depravity and wantonness from which it was difficult to escape.
Today, due to the research undertaken and understanding gained, AIDS is a chronic illness. And, it’s prevalence throughout the heterosexual world has reduced the stigma associated with it and those who suffer from it.
About now, you’re possibly wondering what this has to do depression and anxiety. Or, you’ve possibly already made the connection. Either way, it’s impossible to deny that many of those who live with depression and anxiety would rather have AIDS. Or Cancer. Or, Heart Disease. Or any other physical disease that would “justify” the lethargy, sadness, worry, pain, confusion, weakness and desperation.
We’d rather keep our illness a secret because we know that others don’t understand it. They’ll make unfair judgments about our behaviour and ability to “cope”. It’s clear that in 2014 Depression is a poorly understood “weakness” disease. If you contract it you’re frequently caste in the mould of lazy idiot.
Just this week, Ian Thorpe was described as wandering dazedly after taking a “cocktail” of medications. I have absolutely no knowledge of Ian Thorpe’s illness but doesn’t surprise me that within a week of having surgery, he’s taking prescribed pain medication that would cause confusion in almost anyone who took it. Whether, the pain medication caused an unfavourable interaction with other medication prescribed for depression is pure speculation. The fact that it’s described as a “cocktail” is offensive and nothing more than media hyperbole designed to make something out of nothing.
My point however, is that the media seem to think that Depression is a “madness” and those who suffer from it are incapable of regulating the prescribed dose of medication. The fact that Thorpe has a medically diagnosed illness for which medication has been prescribed makes him absolutely normal in terms of humanity. Which unfortunately, isn’t at all newsworthy.
At the risk of falling off my soapbox and injuring an ankle, we RARELY refer to someone living with AIDS, Cancer or Heart Disease as taking a cocktail of medications to keep them well and functioning! Therefore, neither should we refer to someone living with depression as taking a cocktail of medications designed to keep them well and functioning.
There is no place in our advancing politically correct world to allow deliberate misrepresentation to go unchecked. And, if it’s a Jane Eyre society we’re looking for, where an inability to appear “normal” is considered a madness and gets you locked up in an Edwardian styled attic, then we should allow the media to continue it’s ill-informed misrepresentation of Depression.
Frankly, Ian Thorpe’s current battle will be more difficult than a fight for Olympic Gold. After all, in the swimming pool everyone knows the rules.
Today from Freddie himself: What will I be doing in twenty years’ time? I’ll be dead, darling! Are you crazy?
Deb Shugg is an awarded business woman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety. To contact Deb click here.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor. If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)