A Word About Bertha

Perhaps it’s the recent death of actor, Robin Williams or the minor accident my youngest daughter just had, or the 1st week back to school when I always feel beaten up by the “powers that be,” but whatever it is that has caused it, my depression is back and it doesn’t want to let up.

People who have never suffered from clinical depression have no clue how real the sickness is. My youngest daughter recently shared her opinion about Robin Williams’ death in a Facebook post. She was sympathetic, but unforgiving. “Suicide is not the answer; there’s always help” was the theme of her post.

Considering all that she’s been through, I applaud her. She is right. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The issue is, however, when you are in the pits of depression, and you’ve been there so many times before, you don’t see it as a very temporary thing.

I tried to explain to my daughter that no one would judge a person who went into a diabetic coma as “weak.’ They will surely die if they don’t get help, but they can’t ask for that help. It takes people who are around them or people who know of their condition who frequently check on them to get help for them. How is that any different from someone who is suffering from clinical depression? I see the signs and talk to my family and closest friends about what is going on and they check in on me. I see my doctor and we work on this until I’m back to being my old self again, but I can totally understand why some people hide their depression with humor, anger, or anything else they can find to distract people from seeing what is really going on. I know I am guilty of this myself and do it because our society sees any mental illness as something to be frightened of at best, scorned at worst.

It’s not easy to say, “I’m clinically depressed and need some time to get myself together,” because many Americans have this belief that you can just shake it off, or that if you’re depressed you aren’t thankful for your blessings. You are simply weak, lazy, or wanting sympathy. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I have so much to be thankful for and I know it. That knowledge doesn’t stop this pain in the pit of my stomach that is so real that years ago I named it, “Bertha.” It’s another attempt at humor, but it’s also an easy way for me to let my friends and family know what’s going on. “Bertha’s back,” causes them to pause and to understand.

Bertha’s arrival could not have come at a worse time, but she’s here nonetheless and I can’t exercise her away, pray her away, eat or drink her away, or simply count my blessings until she goes away. Nothing really caused her arrival and everything caused her arrival. The only facts worth considering are that she’s here and I’m dealing with it.

So, before judging someone who seems abnormally agitated or sad; before criticizing someone for some minor fault; before being disappointed because someone let you down, remember that those things to a person suffering from clinical depression are the same as too much or too little sugar is to a diabetic. Be a help; don’t cause further damage. People who suffer from clinical depression do come out of it. Make sure you’re someone they want to reconnect with when they do.

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