Today is World Mental Health Day, as declared by the WHO (World Health Organisation). I have already posted about my most recent experience with severe depression. The reason WHO has a day like this is to raise awareness of just how prevalent and common mental health issues are, and how many countries in the world do not have support for these people. Although I am not certain how exactly I can help someone with depression in a far off country I have never been to, I can at least do my part in the country where I am currently living…
Admittedly, I do feel some insecurity about my experiences with depression. I have friends who have had true horrors in their lives, from abusive homes and other circumstances, and compared to them it seems like I have no reason at all to have been depressed. My parents are pretty amazing, loving and supportive, and I like to think we get on pretty well (most of the time; we have our moments, of course). I have excelled in my various academic environments, and I am incredibly privileged to now attend a world-class university for my PhD, and also to be getting my PhD in such an esoteric topic as fairies in the medieval imagination. I have wonderful friends, many of whom I have kept up with over several years, despite moving to different states and continents. I have a faith that has been tested and tried, and a God who is faithful. So what right do I have to be depressed?
I have chosen not to include various circumstances that could ‘justify’ my depression, but that is just the point: while depression is partly circumstances, it is also a chemical imbalance in the brain. One’s ‘fight or flight’ processes in the brain are affected if one is under severe stress for an extended period of time; in essence, the brain learns that that state of being is ‘normal’. And that is only one explanation I was given for my own particular situation, when I had become so severely stressed, anxious, and depressed that I could no longer function.
I don’t consider myself ‘cured’, because I am still on medication and I am taking steps to ensure that I stay active and social this winter. So, although I might be preaching to the choir here, this is just to say that yes, seemingly normal or ‘perfect’ people can suffer from mental health problems, too — and that as a community and society we ought to be both aware and supportive of this fact. None of us is truly ‘normal’, after all.