Depression Makes Me Feel Ashamed
Depression makes me feel ashamed because it has a way of blurring the distinction between our symptoms and our character. When I get irritated by a comment, is the depression making me oversensitive or did I just not like the comment? When I decide to stay home instead of going out, is it the depression causing me to isolate myself, or do I just feel like staying home? And regardless of whether or not it is the depression, why do I feel so ashamed?
Why Depression Makes Me Feel Ashamed: Internalizing Cultural Messages and Stigma
Public acceptance of depression as a valid mental illness has grown over the years. One could argue that depression is now considered with a degree of sympathy and nuance far greater than it has at any other point in history. Mental health policy may still be playing catch-up, but as far as public opinion goes, advocates and professionals have made significant strides in reducing the stigma around depression.
The problem, then, is not necessarily the stigma around depression. The problem may be that many of the common symptoms of depression can easily be interpreted as other traits that are, in fact, culturally shamed.
For example, fatigue and oversleeping could be interpreted as laziness. Overeating could be seen as greedy. The inability to concentrate could be interpreted as flightiness. The inability to process information effectively could be interpreted as dullness. Loss of motivation could be interpreted as quitting. Loss of interest could be interpreted as apathy.
In other words, common depression symptoms can look almost indistinguishable from common general character traits -- traits that we are taught to be ashamed of.
How Depression Disrupts Cultural Expectations
To further complicate matters, depression can disrupt our culture's dominant narrative of personal success by directly affecting our ability to follow that narrative.
For instance, depression may cause poor academic performance. People may be required to take semesters off from school or quit altogether. Depression may poorly affect work performance and attendance. It may bankrupt motivation to find a job in the first place. People could also have trouble managing their money, thereby affecting their financial standing. It may be harder to find and maintain meaningful relationships and start a family.
There are countless ways in which depression can alter a person's life course. And because symptoms can be misinterpreted as character traits, a life marked by the effects of depression can be misinterpreted as a personal failing.
I often find myself wondering how much of what I do and how I am is related to the depression. And I feel ashamed to think that maybe I'm not doing enough, that maybe I'm just using the depression as an excuse. I feel as though I'm falling behind everyone else and still only barely getting by.
If you relate, I hope at least there is comfort in knowing you're not alone. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Chang, K. (2020, January 17). Depression Makes Me Feel Ashamed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2020/1/depression-makes-me-feel-ashamed
Author: Kayla Chang
This article made sense to me, and did reflect feelings I have had. Sad to say, it hit me when I was depressed, and it just left me in the puddle. I so hoped there would be some suggestions on how to deal with or counter these feelings.
Hello, Anne. Thank you for your comments. I'm Jennifer, the other author of the Coping With Depression blog. Some ways I counteract the feelings of shame and guilt that can arise with depression are as follows:
1. Keep an encouragement journal.
2. Remind myself that depression is an illness; it is not something I caused or did.
I also practice loads of self-love and self-care, which I discuss in the following posts. You might find these helpful.