Monthly Archives: March 2015

RIP Scott Miller. I miss you.

I had just started blogging again in October last year, and things were going pretty well. Then, all of a sudden, radio silence, which continued until a couple of days ago. Well, it all stopped because a dear friend committed suicide. I had no idea how unwell he was, and it came as a total shock.

Scott was one of my very very few regular readers, and he would often get in touch and offer gentle critique, or check if I was ok, or whatever appropriate response there was to what I had written that day. It felt a bit special to have an actual regular reader. And now he’s gone.

I’m still processing the grief. At the time I reacted with a cool head and logic, and just helped keep everything moving. I didn’t cry a lot. I think it’s still all stored up inside me, waiting for an excuse to flood out, probably at a completely inopportune moment.

I miss him so much.

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Depressed brains are jerks

So you see a post on social media, tagging a bunch of your friends but not you. It’s a group thing, but they’re not deliberately excluding you. You just weren’t around much, or weren’t there at the time, or whatever. It’s just a bunch of your friends having a group smile over something. You smile and scroll on.

Or, if you’re prone to depression, it weighs on you. They don’t want you around, your depressed brain says. You’re not really part of the group. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’re just not one of them. It doesn’t matter what they say, you can tell that it’s just words to cover up the fact that they just don’t like you that much.

Depressed brains are jerks. They lie to you, all the time. Even when you’re ‘well’, they taunt you with this kind of garbage. Even if you’re well enough to know that it’s not true, the thoughts come anyway, and you have to actively deal with them in various ways, to stop yourself sinking back into depression.

Depressed brains are jerks. They steal away your peace of mind in favour of whatever turmoil they can conjure up. They affect every part of your life – these kind of thoughts come up around work, home life, friendships and family relationships, anything and everything gets caught up. It gets exhausting actively fighting off these thoughts when they infect your entire world.

Depressed brains are jerks.

Body shaming, part 1367248843221

toothpaste

This photo came across my Facebook feed today, with the caption “When you press realy [sic] hard to get that last bit of toothpaste.” My response? “Ahahahaha I get it! It’s funny because she doesn’t have a nice body”

The kind of humour that relies on mocking the physical attributes of others is just sad. It’s ‘punching down’ – picking on the little guy. You can go after all sorts of people in more powerful positions and be pretty funny, but picking on someone due to something outside of their control, while giving them no right of reply, is so wrong. It’s not funny. It’s nasty.

Symptoms of depression – and things that are not

Mental illness has defined my life for almost half my life. It has affected every part of my existence, and there’s a good chance it always will. Because of this, it’s a cause dear to my heart. I believe that the stigma of mental health needs to be thrown out the way they threw out lobotomies as a treatment for hysteria. It’s wrong, it’s unnecessary, and it has no place in the modern world. So when I saw this,

whyfly

my reaction was instant and visceral.

Let me make one thing transparently, abundantly clear. Mass murder is NOT a symptom of depression. There are millions – perhaps tens or hundreds of millions – of people who go to work every day and don’t kill everyone they see at work, despite suffering depression. Every bloody time some journalist makes the connection between mass murder and depression, it adds to the stigma of mental illness. Things are already bad enough without adding any more to the crap that the mentally ill face each day.

Mentally ill people are far more likely to suffer violence than to hand it out, but that’s quietly swept under the rug in favour of the sensationalist headline. No, we need to question why a depressed man was allowed to do his job. Tell me, if one in five people on average will suffer mental illness in their lifetime, should we be grounding twenty percent of our flight officers? How well is that going to go down? And what evidence do you have that that is a sensible way to deal with mental illness in high-stress jobs? None. Because it’s completely ridiculous.

Things like this makes the everyday lives of people with mental illnesses more difficult. A responsible way to deal with a tragedy involving a (possibly – we don’t even know for sure yet) mentally ill person is to not publicise the mental health angle – it’s about as relevant as a history of gall stones. Unless someone with some expertise in mental health treatment makes a proper statement regarding someone’s mental state, it’s not relevant. But that doesn’t fit in with the drive for the best headline.

No pilot with any sense will come out to his employer any time soon about struggling with depression because the airline is likely to ground them faster than they can blink. If the media found out otherwise, the airline would be ‘irresponsible’ and not pro-active in ensuring passengers’ safety. Instead, it’s going to be hidden and bottled up – and everyone knows that’s the best way to deal with depression. Or not maybe.

Mentally ill people are not more likely to be murderers. They are not inherently dangerous. They are not unusually violent. They span the usual human distribution of these traits – there are violent people, abusive people, cruel people, whether mentally ill or not. There is nothing about mental illness that makes a person more likely to slaughter others, or beat people senseless, or any other violent action. Linking mental illness to violence is unfair, inaccurate, and irresponsible.