About a month and a half ago, I posted an essay about my experiences with depression. A surprising number of people read it (more than five times as many as my next most popular essay). Nobody left a comment on the actual essay, and very few people responded to the Facebook and Twitter posts I made to share it.
However, a significant number of people have contacted me directly. I’ve received Twitter DMs and Facebook messages, had lengthy IM and face-to-face conversations, and even gotten snail mail about it. I’ve drawn a few conclusions from this:
- A surprising number of people are affected by depression. I never would have guessed that any of the people who reached out to me had also dealt with depression. I also talked to several people who had never personally been depressed, but had watched helplessly as their friends dealt with similar problems.
- Nobody wants to talk about it publicly. Many of the people who contacted me said things like “thank you for writing this” and “you’re brave for sharing this”. A lot of the people I talked to had (legitimate) fears that they would be penalized, socially or professionally, for discussing their experiences with depression in the open (I assume it only gets worse for other mental health problems). It’s really unfortunate that this is the case, and I’ve been pondering how we can create safe ways for people to share their perspective.
- My network is more supportive than I expected. The fact that people reached out to me to say that my post resonated with them was great. The fact that people reached out to me to say that they had never been depressed and were grateful that I had shared my perspective was amazing. I knew that I had good friends, but I was genuinely surprised by my friends who talked to me with the intention of learning how to better support their friends. I don’t know how well this generalizes to other social circles, but my working hypothesis is that if you’re having a tough time, your friends care and want to help you.
In short, talking about depression matters. I’m not entirely sure where to go with it, but it’s clearly important. If you have thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them!