08/31/2014 05:44 EDT | Updated 10/31/2014 05:59 EDT

Would You Kick Someone Battling Cancer?

Have we learned nothing from the death of Robin Williams? People who suffer from depression do so quietly. They keep their secret tucked away in their chest where the agony of it is only noticeable to them, not others.

I've been debating for a few days now whether or not to actually write this post, let alone have it published. Feeling juvenile, yet realizing that the occurrence I'm about to describe only further serves to reiterate how uneducated we are about depression; in order to fight back against the assailant - real and psychological - my desire to stay on the path of advocacy for mental illness is driving my fingers across the keyboard.

Last week, in a post in which I describe the need to promote an awareness for depression, just as we have done for ALS with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, ( a comment was left making the point that depression is talked about frequently enough in the media, so furthering the dialogue with something akin to the Ice Bucket Challenge was not necessary. Had the comment stopped at those words, I would not be writing this post. The comment, however, continued to say that the author (me) seemed to have a whole host of problems, and as such, as a mother and nurse, those roles should be re-evaluated since I may not be fit to give care and be responsible for the wellbeing of others.

The commenter might as well have taken a butcher knife and jabbed me in the gut because the words were just as wounding to me psychologically. After I caught my breath and shed many tears, doubt began to set in as to whether the comment was in fact valid. Maybe I am a shitty mother. Maybe I chose the wrong profession. Maybe I'm not fit to do much of anything. I suck at everything. This person is right: I should not be caring for others when I have days where my mind fights me, and holds me by the sleeve as I plough slowly forward.

Then, thanks to the healing that is beginning to manifest itself by fighting back against the destructive voice in my head, I realized that due to the defamatory comment left on that post, the subsequent self-destructive thoughts were not my own, but those of my disorder. The depression tells me constantly how worthless I am. The depression sneaks up on me when I'm laughing with my children, and tells me there is no such thing as joy.

Have we learned nothing from the death of Robin Williams? People who suffer from depression do so quietly. They keep their secret tucked away in their chest where the agony of it is only noticeable to them, not others. Yes, depression will manifest often throughout the day as a seed in my thoughts, which sometimes grows into such a gigantic tree, that my ability to push through the bush is gruelling and exhausting, but not impossible. I am a mother. I am a nurse. But I have Major Depressive Disorder.

Unfortunately, the word 'depression' is tossed around so much that society is impervious to its actual meaning, and to the devastating effects it has on its prey. Depression is not something that happens because your night out with your girlfriends was boring. Depression does not occur because your teacher assigned a lot of homework. Depression is sadness that won't leave you alone; a sadness so deep and so sharp that it clings to your brain with piercing claws. It's a darkness that you carry in your very soul, and removes any possibility of seeing yourself as others may see you. And just because I feel sad, lost, and alone because depression tells me I'm insignificant, I know that the people in my life value and love me. I, however, do not value or love myself. I, however, will allow hurtful words to shatter me. And the efforts required to put me back together are time consuming and exhausting.

Depression is a disease of the brain. So if the person who wrote that comment truly understood what depression is, what it does, and how devastating the consequences of its symptoms can be, the commenter might have given thought to the power of kindness, rather than kicking me while I'm actively trying to fight another assailant at the same time.

Because really, would you kick someone who was battling cancer? I don't think so. So why would you attack someone who is fighting a mental illness? What's the difference? We're both fighting for our lives.


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