Last week, in what I assume was an attempt to comment on the death of Cory Monteith, a woman I know commented on Facebook that the only deaths we should mourn are the unpreventable ones like murder, illness, and the like. That's right. She feels that those who die from a drug overdose, suicide, or anything that she's decided is preventable should not be mourned. Not by their families, friends, co-workers or anyone else. Because it was their choice to die.
It took every ounce of self-control I have not to tell her how I really feel. Because how dare she state that people like my next-door neighbor–a father, former public school teacher, and Afghan war vet who killed himself 2 months ago–do not deserve to be mourned. Or the middle and high school kids who can no longer stand the incessant bullying and can't see it ever getting better so they commit suicide. Or the addicts who are so deep into their addiction that their last high kills them.
They do deserve to be mourned. They deserve to be mourned because they lived. They deserve to be mourned because they were loved. They deserve to be mourned because mental illness and addiction are horrible diseases that, when you're in the throes, have such a stranglehold you begin to feel like a hostage. They deserve to be mourned because often, the problem is so deep and the affected suffers in silence because they just don't feel like anyone will understand. They deserve to be mourned because, as a society, we're so quick to dismiss mental illness. Particularly depression.
Don't believe me? Here's a smattering of what I was told when I was in the thick of mine:
“You need to learn to live with it and get back to work.”
“You can be happy if you really want to.”
“Everyone has depression. You're not any different.”
“You can get up and out of bed every day. It must not be that bad.”
“I known exactly how you feel.”
Some of those were said to me by medical professionals. I'll let you decide which ones. And because medical professionals have this attitude towards depression and other mental illnesses, it's no wonder so many people go untreated (those who are medicated or over-medicated or self-diagnosed or whatever is a totally separate discussion).
It doesn't help that well meaning “experts” and bloggers have permeated our culture with self-help books and blog posts and inspirational quotes telling us that depression really is just something we can cure if we want to. These individuals make us feel like it's a character flaw; that we're deficient in self-esteem or have some other weakness that causes depression. It's somehow our fault that we feel this way.
Bull shit. No one asks to be depressed–and I'm not just talking blue, I'm talking depressed (and to the lady shopping at The Body Shop who professed that she was depressed over the fact that the mall has a Cheesecake Factory and she had eaten elsewhere, I want to say, to paraphrase Fat Amy, not a good enough reason to use “depressed”)–because it. Is. The. Worst. It sucks to cry for no reason. It sucks to have zero motivation for anything. It sucks to feel unloved. It sucks to stop enjoying everything you once did. It sucks to be unable to laugh or feel most emotion except excessive sadness. It sucks to live in your own head, listening to the chorus of voices telling you that you don't matter (I've written before about what my depression looks like. Please read it if you have a chance).
And that? Is not easy to just “get over”. Because if it were, I, and so many others, would do just that. We'd put all the horrifying feelings and misery behind us and move on. We'd magically smile and laugh and start loving life again. It'd be easy to take a shower or walk the dog or go to work or do anything that's not sit on a couch or curl up in our beds, blocking out everything. Please realize this–even if a depressed person is engaging in those activities, it's exhausting for us. It takes every ounce of strength to feign acting normal and, when that's over, we're back in our pajamas, in the same corner on the couch. Because we don't know what else to do.
Depression isn't a choice. Who would choose to live in a perpetual state of numbness and sadness? No, depression is a disease. It's a chemical imbalance. And it's fucking torture. And it breaks my heart that so many people are suffering from this personal hell and the only escape they feel they have is suicide.
So to the Facebook woman, I say this–fuck you. If you don't want to mourn a celebrity who died of an overdose, then don't. But to say that anyone who dies from a reason you deem unacceptable doesn't deserve to be mourned shows what a compassionless asshole you actually are. And I hope you never know what it's like to have or love someone who has a mental illness or addiction. Because I can't imagine what you'd say then.