Turning depression around

Just – a four-letter word

on 27/09/2013

“You’re just fed up.”  “You just need to stop worrying.”  “You’re just being lazy.”  “It’s just life.”  “You just need to do more for yourself.”  “You just need to think yourself better.”  “You just need to shake it off.”  “You just need to get on with it.”  “You just need to change your job.”  “You just need to count yourself lucky.”  “You just need to stop moaning and get on with it.”  “You just need to get out of that relationship.”  “You just need to take your mind off it.”  “You’re just feeling sorry for yourself.”  “You’re just skiving.”  “You just need to look on the bright side.”  “You just need to change your way of thinking.”  “You’re just looking for attention.”

Reactions like these show that people just don’t know what they’re talking about.

Or they’re really well-intentioned, and maybe they do, but they just want us to get better.

Depression isn’t a choice.  It’s not a switch that can just be turned on or off.  It’s not a designer accessory that we just go shopping for, like a chihuahua in a handbag.  It’s not just about being over-sensitive to throwaway comments, but can be about not being able to stop worrying about child- or animal-cruelty, about the suffering of refugees of war and famine; we take everything to heart and feel helpless for ourselves and for the world at large.  It’s not about just being lazy, but rather about having to sit in the dark because we literally don’t have it in us to just reach out and flick a light switch. 

As a word, “just” belittles anything it precedes.  “It’s just a cold, it’s not pneumonia.”  “It’s just a cyst, not a tumour.”  So how seriously are we taken if we open a door or answer the phone and say, “It’s just me”?  How seriously do we take ourselves when we hear our own voice undermining our own worth then? 

And if what’s ailing us is just depression, how much weight is it given as the illness that it is?  There’s nothing just about the stigma that surrounds mental illness.  Unlike many physical conditions, a diagnosis of depression can carry a life sentence, not a death sentence.  We may enter a kind of mental remission, but that doesn’t mean that the threat of a relapse ever goes away, or that every day isn’t a battle to keep it under control, even when we’re feeling more like ourselves again.

How about we just focus on being kind to ourselves and ignore the negative observations?  We know better than anyone that we have more than enough of those in our own minds already.  The curse of these four letters is something we shouldn’t have to deal with, so let’s replace it with hope.


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