On the Casual Use of the Term “Depression”

Did watching an episode on Netflix make you have trouble breathing, or make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom and spend the rest of the night under covers? I’m not here to police language or take away from your experience, but I’ll put a few dollars on “probably not.” 

Hope y’all had a good weekend! If you’ve been as busy as me, you probably needed the break.

Besides playing way too much Fortnite (xchilphilx on XBL) and bumping new Travis Scott way too loud…I’ve been working on a few things behind the scenes. While those are cooking, I wanted to stop by and have a quick (but important) discussion on a topic that’s been on my mind for a while.

img_3785
How y’all doing?

Several weeks ago, Instagram began providing an option for users to ask questions on their story and have them answered by their followers. I’m always looking for topics to continue the mental health conversation, so I decided to ask my peeps if there was anything they wanted to read about. One follower and good friend (thanks, @theycallmetap) in particular started a conversation about whether or not I think mental health words and terms such as “depression” and “anxiety” are overused (spoiler alert: I do), and before too long this post was born.

You’ve probably experienced it in your daily life. Someone says “Ugh, this weather is depressing,” or “Have you seen the latest episode of X, so depressed Johnny died,” or “this traffic is giving me anxiety.” Regardless of the situation, it’s becoming (at least to me) a disturbing trend – both in my day-to-day life and social media. Trivializing and colloquializing (had to double-check the spelling on that one) mental health and its terms have unfortunately become a norm – more often than not, it seems, by people that just don’t seem to understand mental illness.

Using something too much, like a word or a term, can dilute it and remove the significance of its meaning. “I’m depressed” these days has really become equivalent to “I’m a little sad.” “This gives me anxiety” really means “I’m just a little stressed about it,” and so on. I once read that we would never use a serious physical illness (like cancer) to mean “a little sick”, so why do we use mental illnesses this way?

Did watching an episode on Netflix make you have trouble breathing, or make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom and spend the rest of the night under covers? Did a little bit of rain give you heart palpitations, sweaty palms, or make you feel you don’t deserve to live? I’m not here to police language or take away from your experience, but I’ll put a few dollars on “probably not”.

In my experience, using terms in this way really takes away from those who are going through serious mental health struggles…and it isn’t fair to us as a whole. In addition, it can further add to the stigma of mental illness by contributing to its misunderstanding and making anxiety, depression, etc. seem less serious or important. Mental health and mental illness are serious issues, so we should treat them that way.

So, all that considered, the next time we choose to use a term such as “depressed”, “anxiety”, or “OCD” and the like, I hope we all consider what those terms may mean to someone else.

What are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear them.

Here for you always,

sig

Phil.

Advertisements

Why I Took a Break from Social Media (Or Blocked You, Or Whatever…Sorry)

I’m not suggesting everyone should boycott social media. I am, however, suggesting that everyone could benefit from some time away. I know I did.

On or around March 30, 2017 I took an extended break from Facebook and various other social media outlets. After a short-winded post about me needing a leave of absence, I deleted my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter apps, and stopped posting to Snapchat. I had always toyed with the idea of taking a break, going offline for a while, and reconnecting with people, places, and activities that were important to me and my goals…but the circumstances I found myself in leading up to that day forced me over the edge (no pun intended).

Let’s be frank. I wasn’t in a good place. I was anxious and moody on good days, broken on the not-so-good days…and on the worse days, forgetting my medication (or taking too much) and drinking way more than I should have been. If depression, anxiety, and other darker things were all wrapped up in some sort of explosive package…the bomb had dropped, and I was at ground zero. It was my deepest, darkest depressive episode yet (I’ll save more on this for another time), and social media wasn’t helping.

20170330_100520000_iOS
My Facebook post.

You see the thing about social media that hits home the most, especially for someone that’s struggling, is that no one ever really posts the bad stuff. The poster’s world – from someone looking in – is perfect, happy, and free from whatever might be ailing the other person in front of the screen. This “grass is greener” concept is especially harmful for users already experiencing depression and other forms of mental illness, and I was no different. I became tired of the happy couples posting engagement photos (congrats, though), expectant mothers posting pregnancy announcements (congrats again), and posts from friends and others at events I either wasn’t invited to or couldn’t gather enough energy and motivation to attend.  I ended up stuck in a debilitating cycle of comparing myself to others, beating myself down for not being in places I wanted to be, and struggling with a near-constant fear of missing out (FOMO). These things, combined with the daily battle with depression, were just too much for me to handle…and I opted outº.

20170814_211246000_iOS
Bye social media!

Leaving social media – albeit difficult to do – was almost immediately relieving. With every press of those little X’s as I deleted apps, I felt more and more pressure lifted off of me. I didn’t have to check in anywhere, keep up-to-date on any news feeds, or browse any timelines. Better yet, I wasn’t bombarded by images of friends that never ever seemed to have problems, wasn’t tempted to lurk around other people’s pages (especially exes or mutual friends of exes), and was free to continue to focus on issues that were present in my actual, offline life. Not only that, but as time went on (I spent just over two months away), I began to experience other benefits that helped me deal with these issues. My sleep was better (probably because I wasn’t up at odd hours scrolling through my phone). My relationships with friends and family got better, as I had more time to spend working on communication and spent less time on the phone or tablet glued to an app. I had effectively put all my “online-only”, half-assed, and superficial relationships on hold and invested more time and energy into real, meaningful ones. I became way more productive at work. Better still, I put myself on a path for having a better quality of life by giving myself time to spend working on myself.

Eventually, I returned to social media – but with a different mindset. Now I try to remember that not everyone is perfect, and while the images and content people post may suggest otherwise, everyone has their ups and downs. While I still struggle with issues I’ve already mentioned, it’s getting easier and easier to pull back and focus on myself. I know I may have to leave again or make some other changes (sorry for blocking or unfollowing you), and I hope this post helps myself and others understand why it’s needed.

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone should boycott social media and go on a deleting spree. I am, however, suggesting that everyone could benefit from some time away. I know I did.

 

º Side note. Just wanted to shout out everyone that took the time to reach out back then and now. I hope everyone could take the time out to check on people they care about, especially your friends that seem like they have everything going for them. More often than not, your “strong” friend is the one hurting the most.

Until next time,

Phil xo