Why 'social interaction' isn't really the right message for those who are suffering from depression
Updated: Jan 29
Recently, I've been considering the messages that we are getting in the media about mental 'health' and I've identified a huge problem with it all.
There is confusion coming from the fact that the distinction between mental health and mental illness isn't being recognised, and I'm concerned that people with mental illnesses are beginning to think that they are in some way to blame for the way that they're feeling.
Everything that's being talked about in the media relates to mental 'health' (well-being) and not mental illness which is something completely different.
One of the things that we are always told to do is to 'seek support' and 'maintain relationships' but it's impossible to do this when you are suffering from depression, because it is the illness itself that detaches and isolates you.
It's so hard to explain this but when you are suffering from depression even getting from bed to bathroom is an act of excruciating effort so trying to converse or connect with people isn't just a difficult task - it's torture!
For years at a time, I have hidden away with the curtains closed because I couldn’t help myself through social support or interaction when I was suffering. It just didn’t help me and in all honesty, it made me feel worse.
This was because I felt so ashamed of the fact that I was unable to do anything alongside it, and I would have to 'invent' news and plan topics of conversation beforehand which just made me feel even more insincere, fake and awkward.
In the rare times that I have ventured out into society it's been such a battle that I've been constantly thinking while out somewhere: 'I can't wait for this to be over', and then dashing home to pull the curtains again.
It is impossible to say how you are really feeling because people never know what to say if you do speak the awful truth, and apart from that - who wants someone who can't really make a conversation or see the humour in a joke, sitting at their dinner table?
What happens is that you do the 'Hollywood performance' of smile, smile, smile (lie, lie, lie) and then as soon as is politely possible you make an excuse and get the hell out of there!
I wanted to know if other people find socialising difficult and experience social awkwardness when suffering from depression, so I had a look on the internet last night and found a few quotes from other people. Here are a couple of them to illustrate my point:
"In social situations, some people don’t realise I withdraw or don’t speak much because of depression. Instead, they think I’m being rude or purposefully antisocial." Laura B.
"I have often been accused of having no sense of humor. So wrong. Before depression took over my life, I smiled and laughed as much as the next person. Now, having lived with depression for over 15 years, the humour I find in a joke or situation is rarely visible on my face or heard in my laugh. I feel humour, but it's just too much effort to express it. I don't have the energy." Martha W.
Having said all of this, for mental 'health' (well-being), there is nothing better than seeing friends, supporting each other and feeding off each others company - This is why making the distinction is so important!
This has been confirmed to me over the last few days since the restrictions have been lifted because now that I am finally better, I am loving meeting up and interacting with my friends again.
Now that I've reclaimed my life and returned to my authentic self, I'm able to laugh and make jokes in social situations, just like I always used to. I'm able to connect and converse easily without it being forced or contrived, it's an effortless and straightforward practice, and best of all - I enjoy it!
Yesterday, I drove to Cirencester to see my friend Cindy and we went riding in the stunning Cotswold countryside and chatted away like we always used to. It was just so wonderfully liberating to be being real and authentic, and not in any way fake or contrived.
We met another friend for lunch at the Jolly Nice farm shop near Frampton Mansell and it was so nice to sit out in the sunshine and catch up on all of their news.
It's so obvious to me now that there is a problem with the advice and messages in the media because 'exercise', 'social support', 'fresh air', 'vitamin D' and 'talking' are really only beneficial for mental well-being NOT mental illness.
When I have enough readers I will illustrate this point by discussing the ways in which you combat depression and other mental illnesses and it does not start with trying to socialise, eating kale and going for a run!
If you would like some more information about how depression affects people then you can find some more quotes and examples here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,