Must I Have an Art Studio to Be Depressed? and Other Stereotypes of Depression

A take down of various stereotypes dealing with pop culture’s misgivings about clinical depression, as presented by this Buzzfeed article. 

Now, I try not to talk too much about myself, but sometimes my own personal experience and the portrayals of that experience in pop culture and media can be so unduly, undoubtedly different. These are not all the misgivings and stereotypes in Hollywood Depression, but they are ones I can address easily. For example: “First of all, depression always looks beautiful — beautiful characters crying, staring out windows, taking a listless shower, etc. etc. etc., beautifully.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight: not everything is a wonderful plate of listless ennui fashioned for some invisible camera. Sometimes depression is eating too much, or eating too little. Sometimes, it’s the ugly cry. Sometimes it’s being too depressed to even cry. You ever think about that?

Characters with depression are pretty much always reduced to being ~sad~.”

Have you ever considered that people with depression are not always sad? We are not a single emotion. It’s like a person, on the flip side, with mania. People with mania are not always happy. I often find myself putting out a fake smile, or a genuine smile at times, but I still find myself often angry, often sad, yes, and even often happy. Again, we are not cartoons.

“Most of the time, depression is triggered by Dramatic Plot Elements.”

This was not true with me. Depression, in my case, came upon me slowly, in the night, under cover of darkness. It was slowly and undetected, until it was almost too late. I did not even remember showing signs of depression or major red flags, until my mother came to me after just receiving a call about something I had written. (More about that later.)

And because of that, depression always culminates as a big blowup or breakdown.

No, no huge blowup, no huge breakdown. As a matter of fact, when my depression was discovered, I had barely any feeling left in my body, and although I could not communicate it at the time, I was starting to see things under a cover of hazy gray. No, there was no gigantic yelling and screaming fit.

Or if a character valiantly pretends they’re fine and doesn’t succumb to their depression, the audience is obviously supposed to think they’re strong and brave.

This goes back to the fact that “Strong and Brave” people are uncharacteristically portrayed as not having any feelings. This is a tenet of toxic masculinity, or perhaps of not showing any vulnerability. Perhaps this stereotype is what often leads to suicide

In fact, most of the boring parts of dealing with depression are erased.

Of course, because they’re not either “beautiful” or “dramatic,” but they’re real life. Why don’t you ever show the real side of depression, Hollywood? Try showing not having the energy to lift a hairbrush? Or, just looking in the mirror with barely any energy to open your eyes?

Depression is treated as an alluring or mysterious trait that draws the attention of a love interest.

Oooh, romance! The fix-all for any sadness! That is an insult to anyone and everyone with clinical depression. If romance and/or sex was the cure, the clinics would do that. Besides, this points out an insidious stereotype that depression is rational. Depression is not rational. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.

AND THEN THAT LOVE INTEREST ALWAYS ~FIXES~ THE PERSON WITH DEPRESSION.

As above, this is not only wrong, it is insulting. Chester Bennington had the great wife, the great kids, and yet he still took his life. Depression is not rational.

If treatment IS explored, it’s always super easy and straightforward.

Well, often treatment is a long, tedious process. It often goes with trying to find the right medicine, the right therapist, the right clinic. Nobody ever tells you that. Again, depression is not rational.

Speaking of therapists, they’re usually portrayed as pretty useless.

What did talking out and working out the issues ever do for anyone, right? Wrong. Working out and talking out the issues has often averted wars. Why does it not work for people willing to talk, listen and be honest?

When treatment is shown in a positive light, it’s always super linear and FAST.

This is wishful thinking. We always want the quick fix, the easy solution, the fast-working drug. If those worked, we would do that. It is also insulting to those who need more research, more diagnosis, more help.

There aren’t many examples of high-functioning people with depression, rather than people whose depression completely derails their life.

Now, I currently have a “high-functioning” form of depression. You know what I feel about the functioning label, but when people are handling their troubles well, apparently they are not worthy of the Hollywood stereotype. Even people who actually are handling their depression must be derailed and sent back to the mental ward to show the seriousness of the problem.

Pretty much every depressed character is also suicidal at some point.

Now, I may have been suicidal at one point, but I am not suicidal anymore. In fact, when I was getting my diagnosis, I was actually beginning to climb out of the pit of suicidal ideation. I was regretting my decision. Then, a diagnosis was given and I received more help.

More often than not, a character with depression fits a specific stereotype.

I know this particular type. You know, the girl who wears black all the time? In my day, we called them goths; you might call them emo. I must tell you the truth: the goths in my particular high school were actually quite happy people. I thought about going goth for a time, because I bought this stereotype, but as I look back, the people in black actually seemed very pleased. Maybe there’s a thing for being yourself?

Also, take a look at me. I am currently wearing a bright pink dress with yellow, orange and purple patterns on it. I have brown hair that was once blonde, green hazel eyes, somewhat tanned skin (for Kentucky, anyway,) and big curves. I own a rainbow of clothes I rotate regularly. I have a Pomeranian dog, who loves me to death, and a mother who encourages a happy home. What is goth about this particular depression sufferer?

And let’s be real, even with positive representations of depression, more often than not, the characters are white.

Even though I am white, this fact is true: people with depression are not. Trouble is, you kind of have to be white to be noticed by Hollywood. Maybe that’s why most persons of color think mental illness is “white people s***.” This stops a huge number of people from getting the help they need, simply because they think it’s a tool of The Man to keep them at the bottom of the heap.

Medication is treated like this evil, personality-zapping stuff you should avoid at all costs.

Again, not true in my case. As a matter of fact, the medicine I take actually helps me function better. Before I took medicine, I liked Pearl Jam, Green Day and rock music in general. After I started taking medicine, I still liked Pearl Jam, Green Day and rock music in general. My personality has not changed.

And depressed characters are always super creative and artistic.

I certainly WISH! If I was super creative, artistic and talented, don’t you think I would be in a different kind of existence? Like, actually making money instead of living off the government?

For some reason, going through depression always ends in some sort of cheesy life lesson.

If there is one thing about depression, it does not really give you some life lesson. If there is any lesson, it is this: sometimes you have to fight for what you want, whether it’s love, money, or even your life.

And finally, most of this is covered in the span of a Very Special Episode — or, if we’re lucky, a small arc — then forgotten about forever.

Don’t even get me started. Depression is not something to be forgotten about. I am reminded every time I eat breakfast. I have been with my diagnosis for twenty-two years! There is no reason for me to stop working on my health.

All in all, I am utterly disgusted that I have to address mental illness stigma and stereotypes seventeen years into the twenty-first century! When are we ever going to learn?

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“Good Doctor” Reactions

I am going to put “The Good Doctor” to the test. How stereotypical is it? How real is it? Also, does Freddie Highmore try to create a nuanced autistic man, or does he simply put on the Autism Costume? 

That is what I intend to find out. 

10:00 – A simple routine. Good start.  

10:01 – Mess the hair up. OK. 

10:02 – What’s with the line on the ground? 

10:02 – Saved from the bullies…and we have PTSD. 

10:03 – San Jose Airport: Noisy as can be. 

10:04 – Loud crash. Boy is hurt. 

10:04 – Correcting a doctor. OOOH. 

10:05 – “Not Rain Man. High-functioning. Capable of handling his affairs.” Enough with the labels, doc! 

10:06 – Tamlyn Tomita? She looks great! 

10:07 – Savant Syndrome? OK. I can see that. 

10:08 – Another doctor or two. Good. 

10:10 – Sherlock called – he wants his Mind Palace back. *Visualizations* 

10:11 – Trying to communicate his medical emergency….grabs the knife. The boy’s mother finally communicates his intention. 

10:12 – The doctors are arguing. Trying to give consent. 

10:13 – Another doctor. 

10:14 – Alcohol, tubing, gloves. More visualizing. Incision, tubing in, boy is saved! 

10:15 – Boy saved! 

*Commercial Break* 

I promise I am watching. My rapid-fire reactions are part of my style. 

*Back to Show* 

10:18 – Phone call from hiring manager (?). Trustee and hiring manager debate. 

10:19 – Another flashback. Father is not understanding. Abuse. Pet rabbit dead.  

10:20 – A glitch seen. Listen, OK? 

10:21 – Surgery on man. Pustule exploded.  

10:22 – Echocardiogram pushing, no one listens, tries to rush the ER. 

*Commercial Break* 

10:27 – Going through the hospital. Relax, it’s a revolving door. 

10:28 – Rain. More about the dead rabbit. Looks like a meltdown.  

10:29 – Talking about a surgeon’s needs. “No qualified others without autism.” Comparisons of discrimination. “How will the patients react?”  

10:31 – Sean (the doctor) is described as “the weird guy.” Sean found. Medical jargon. Recommended test found nothing.  

*Commercial Break* 

10:37 – “Sean.” Watching an echocardiogram. Subtle defect. Piece of glass described as hypothesis toward problem.  

10:39 – Youtube video saves the boy’s job, maybe? 

10:40 – Trustee finally sees Sean at work.  

10:40 – Flashback: Sean and his brother on an abandoned bus. A present? A toy knife seen in the episode beginning.  

10:42 – The toy scalpel is revealed. So is the mentioned piece of glass. 

*Commercial Break*  

I find the “symptoms” there. I am also finding a more nuanced character, though I might be wrong. I need to consult with other autistic colleagues. 

10:46 – Finally, meeting with the hirer. Now he can show up for the interview.  

10:47 – The boy is being discussed. Still trying to convince the board he’s capable. “Letting things get personal…?”  

10:48 – Doctor is trying to make conversation with Sean, Sean’s not doing that well. Call-out on the doctor. OUCH. 

10:49 – Well, “I would love to make you happy, but…” Boy, does this doctor hate him.  

10:50 – FINALLY, Sean can speak.  

10:51 – Flashback. Oh, boy. Children on top of a train. Brother falls! No movement.  

10:53 – Struggling to speak and communicate well. Finally hitting his stride near the end. Ms. Tomita’s character welcomes him in. 

10:55 – The doctor is dressed and scrubbed. Gloved. Safety spectacled.  

10:56 – Flashback. “You can do anything.” Begin the operation.  

10:57 – Giving mad props. Now an arrogance callout. He wonders if it works, in so many words.  

10:58 – The Season Preview.  

*Show Over* 

All in all, I liked the show. The portrayal of autism is getting there. Obviously, it’s not there yet, but it’s getting there. I understand that this is somewhat of a checklist of sorts, being the introduction of the character, but it seems to be nuanced. I’m getting a second opinion, in case this is inaccurate.  

Opioid Crisis

Good day, readers. I am back from writer’s block. I have decided to speak about an issue that has affected my family in a big way:  

There is an urban legend which states that bars give you a free alcoholic drink if you trade in your 30-day sobriety chip. While not proven to be true, I doubt you will find a bar that will admit to this. It is a pervasive idea that moral failings are the cause of addictive behavior. While choosing to try the first time is a choice, choice diminishes in subsequent drinking. The same is true for our nation’s current opioid crisis.  

Kentucky is among states who are suing pharmaceutical companies for causing the current opioid crisis. What is the opioid crisis, you ask? Simple. Millions of people are overdosing on opioids. They are addicted. They are overtaxing the criminal justice system. They are overtaxing medical hospitals. And they are overtaxing families, including mine.                                         

The opioid epidemic is not just some abstract out there for me. I have at least three known relatives addicted to the stuff. I’m not going to name them, because that is not the point. The point is, I know personally what an addiction is. It is wrong to say that addictions are rational. It is wrong to say addictions are reasonable. Addictions break all rules and regulations for that one thing which produces the high. As many of you know, and the medical community can attest, pregnancy’s fact that a child might be born in pain does not stop the mother. Many children are now born addicted to opioids and other drugs. They go through withdrawal as newborns, including the pain. I don’t personally know a person who this has happened to, but I know many out there do.  

There is a reason the urban legend of the bar that offers a free drink for a 30-day sobriety chip persists. Many people believe businesses which give rise to addictions are perceived to be unscrupulous, including drug companies. There is a conspiracy theory out there that states drug companies keep people addicted to opioids to turn them into addicts, aka “good customers.” As a matter of fact, there are states banking on this new “sobriety chip drink.” Did the pharmaceutical companies leave addiction warnings off the table, as it once did for heroin? (Heroin was once an ingredient for medicines in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.)  

For now, it is up to ourselves to watch our own bodies and addictions. For instance, my mother avoids using opioids when she is in too much pain. She has chronic pain, but prefers things that are not opioid forms of treatment. She is also not blind to the horrors of addiction and what it has caused our family.  

I’m not lecturing to feel smug in the least, because I know it could happen to me, too. I am speaking in hopes of preventing another soul from becoming addicted to opioids, and possibly other drugs, too. (That has also happened in my family.) I am speaking in hopes of preventing another newborn baby from going through painful, uncomfortable withdrawal. I am speaking in hopes of keeping another family intact. I am speaking in hopes of saving lives. For when you become addicted, you lost your ability to just say no.  

Revisiting Mental Illness Stigma on TV

Now, I’ve been watching the TV show OutDaughtered. For those not in the know, the father has been dealing with a form of depression. He has been getting encouragement to get professional help, and it takes a final exposure of the mother’s pain to do it. That’s all I’m going to say on this one. 

I’m not saying there is a perfect show about dealing with mental illness stigma. What I am saying is, this show kept the stigma to a minimum. It was mentioned a few times, but it was kept in a more visceral sense, and it was definitely fought with. That’s what I want when dealing with mental illness stigma – fighting it like the plague.  

It’s a funny thing, how different TV shows deal with mental conditions. I know I criticized The Carmichaels in the past about their handling of mental illness stigma, and they are about a black family. To ME, PERSONALLY, these things are completely unrelated. If OutDaughtered were about a black family, or The Carmichaels were white, I would have dealt the same reviews. I still think they ought to fight stigma as much as they can. Somehow, I still believe The Carmichaels would have revisited the issue with mental illness stigma had they not been canceled. As I have said before, I liked The Carmichaels. I just wish they would have fought the stigma of mental illness more.  

 

Too Concerned with Mental Health at Times? 

When I heard an actress, who had recently given birth, was getting health with her postpartum depression, I felt that concern time was over because I somehow knew she was in good hands. I often wonder if that concern was prematurely ended. I mean, since she was in good hands, she was getting good help, right?  

I was wondering: when should you be concerned with a person’s mental health, and when should you be NOT concerned? Also, could you be too concerned? Could that concern actually be thinly-veiled fear? 

When you’re dealing with your own mental health, I think concern should be best had by the person themselves. Mental health persons, when dealing with it, can be their own best advocates. Besides, they know what is best for them a majority of the time, especially in dealing with the tedious trial-and-error method of mental health medication. I am a fan of telling the doctor everything that is going on with your body, mind and mood. I know it’s long and drawn out. I myself had to tell my own prescriber that I was not feeling and functioning when they switched my prescription on me once. I am even glad there is somebody who looks out for me and my mental state as well. Unfortunately, few of those with mental illness have that person who really looks out for them. I know I am blessed in that aspect.  

About excess concern: that is usually a veiled fear of mental illness itself, and the various aspects of the behavior. I must speak again and again of the stigma, fear and hate that surrounds us who have mental illness, and our families. Pushing it under the rug will do nobody any favor. As a matter of fact, stigma gives mental illness a cover of darkness, and darkness is the perfect environment for the illness to spread and fester like bacteria, claiming lives and families as it grown. It is only in exposure to the light of day that we can fight it. 

So, what is the limit of concern? Where do we stop being scared for the person and begin to help the person in their fight for their health?  

Dealing with Disappointment from Some Things

I recently talked about the stigma showing in a recent episode of The Carmichaels. As I was thinking in the past few days, I came to the realization that some people might get the wrong idea on my opinion of the entire show, that I don’t like the entire show. Well, in my humble opinion, that’s just silly. Of course I like the show. It’s hilarious, discusses the issues of the day, and has David Alan Grier. What could not be more likable? It’s just like the Benedict Cumberbatch and autism debacle I fell into a little while ago. I like Benedict Cumberbatch a LOT. Why do you think the commentary surrounding autism and autistic people hurts so much? I mean, name screw-up jokes about him are not funny. You’re not John Travolta or a Starbucks Cup. The point is, just because something gets a little problematic does not mean you cannot like it. Critical thinking is needed at this point. I mean, just because something may disappoint you in one instance does not mean you should abandon it altogether. Give it a chance to redeem itself. I believe there is a point where you do need to give up on something, but it is much farther away than you think. Sometimes, you need to separate yourself from liking a certain point of the person, without kicking a person or show to the curb. It’s not easy, but you have to decide if you give up on something that disappoints you or not. As a matter of fact, I do like Benedict Cumberbatch and The Carmichaels. They may have disappointed me, but they have still proven themselves good and entertaining. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.  

Stigma on TV: The Carmichaels Edition

I’m getting real mad at The Carmichael Show. This is what facing mental illness stigma is like. 

Well, the episode started with the matriarch crying by herself in the kitchen, while nobody else knew. The elder son’s girlfriend, who is a therapist, caught her, and the matriarch would not let her help her. They went out to the living room, where the girlfriend told the men (and got called a snitch), who began a discussion about depression. The discussion following reeked with stigma. There was talk of weakness, of not talking about it, of saying it only happened to rich and (implied) white people, and even self-medication with weed. It literally took holding the day’s plans hostage to actually get her to go to therapy. She eventually went to therapy, but admitted she lied about everything. It took a fight out front in the living room and admitting the pressure she put herself under to get her to go to therapy again.  

Anyway, I summarized the episode because I’m still processing the information. It makes me mad because if this is what we with mental illness face going into various communities, it’s no wonder so many of them are going to jail! Now, I’m not blaming the African American community at large for the crimes of a few. That is not the problem. The problem is stigma. The problem is hate and discrimination against the “crazy” (and yes, that word was used at one point), which will get them locked up in jail or prison before they get help. The largest mental health institution in the United States is the Cook County Jail in Chicago. Perhaps if people were encouraged to seek help for their problems, maybe they would not wind up in jail! It often takes TV shows like The Carmichael Show encouraging getting help to get people to get help. Unfortunately, I feel they dropped the ball on this one. Why not fight the stigma?