Thursday, October 4, 2012

Silently Suffering

I've had a lot of random thoughts floating around in my head as potential blog topics, but this is the one I've been coming back to for the past couple days.

NaNoWriMo is coming up soon. I wasn't really intending on doing it this year, but then someone mentioned it on Twitter, and now I can't get it out of my head. So, I'm probably going to go for it again this year, but more on that later. That's not what this post is actually about.

No, this post is about something that occured to me while browsing the forums. It's funny, people will create topics for just about anything. There's a forum for 20-somethings, and on the very first day (forums are wiped clean and relaunched every October, to get ready for the event) some kind of war between the ages broke out, and every single age has its own thread now. Another forum is called "Writing Groups and Clubs," where you can seek out other wrimos who are single, or married, or unemployed, or LGBT, or wiccan, or knitters, or on Pottermore, or hockey fans upset about the lockout, or . . . you get the idea.

Inevitably, there is always a thread for those suffering mental illnesses and disorders. And, I think it's great to seek out support in whatever setting you happen to be. And, I think it's probably easier to open up about these things online because there's a sort of veil of anonymity.

But the introductions to these posts . . . I feel like it turns into a contest of who has the most wrong with them. I feel terrible thinking this, but some people seem almost proud when they list off their 5-10 different disorders. It makes someone like me, who "only" suffers from depression, feel like I don't belong. (I'm actually fairly certain that I have some type of social anxiety disorder as well, but it's never been diagnosed.) Plus the fact that I don't take medication, or see a therapist . . . so what I have obviously can't be that bad if I've managed to survive this long without any of that.

I'm curious why, though, so many sufferers seem to have multiple problems. Is it because mental disorders are so much more complex than physical illnesses? Is it some form of hypochondria ("I'm screwed up in one way, let's see how many others could apply to me too")? Are doctors over-diagnosing? Whether it's real or imagined, these disorders do seem to snowball (at least among the very small sample size of people posting on forums I've come across on the internet). Or is it just that the ones who do only suffer from one problem just don't contribute to the discussion because, like me, they feel intimidated by people who are worse off, in the same way you wouldn't go visit a cancer ward and complain that you have a sore throat?


  1. Thanks for writing this post. Mental illness is mental illness, period, whether you're dealing with one issue or twelve. There's still such a stigma and generalized misunderstanding about what constitutes mental illness, i.e. You're depressed? You don't look depressed? It's probably just a funk (actually said to me by a good friend several weeks after Beth's suicide). Many diseases are visually obvious; mental illness is often invisible or expertly hidden due to social expectations. It's time to shine a light on mental illness and come to understand its complexities and variations like any other disease.

  2. I'm not around in forums as much so I don't see it a lot but I do think that some of them are just having a contest to see how's screwed up the most. Which I think is incredibly sad and probably not helping.
    I suppose there are a lot of people out there intimidated by this and thus not showing, participating in these discussions.

    Sorry to read that your suffering from depression. I never know what to say. Mental health issues confuse me because they seem so vague. They're hard to diagnose and sometimes even to understand. But then again, everything aside from orthopedic problems confuses me so I'll shut up now.

  3. I steer clear of forums for that reason. Suffering is suffering and no one is winning suffering martyrdom. I'm sorry you're suffering. I wish I knew something to say to make it better, but I don't. Please just know that you are cared for and loved by many people (myself included) and I'm glad I begged for your help in Aural skills. In doing so, I made a new friend. :)

  4. In answer to your thoughts re: why so many people have depression and whatever. Often people have another diagnosis that leads to depression. I have ADHD of which depression is often hand in hand with due to the frustration of the ADHD. I understand youur despair with feeling that your diagnosis is not as bad, but certainly it is not unworthy of support groups or blogs. The only depression support groups recommended to me combines bipolor with depression, and I stopped going. I was the only one without bipolar, and much of their discussion was regarding the effectivenes of the meds, non of which were mine. Maybe you should start a blog for people that only have one mental issue, depression. It is important to get support from people who can empathise with you.-Marilyn

  5. I do want to add that people that have other illnesses can empathise with you, but when they bring in all their other issues, it is hard to find the empathy.-Marilyn

  6. *hug*

    I found your blog by way of Nanowrimo, and I just wanted to say that I'm another one who feels a little too intimidated to speak up in those threads. I have depression/anxiety, and I'm not proud of it.

    I am also pretty sure that's all that's wrong with me.

    Those threads ARE a little too much like a 'whats-wrong-with-me' competition, and while I empathise with people who are hurting, I can't help but wonder if people are just making things worse for themselves by taking the martyrdom road.

    I have started seeing a therapist - though it's been a while - and it has helped. But know that there are others like you who are out there, sometimes too silent for their own good. And the good of others.

  7. (hugs) it's so silly that people seem to see it as a competition. It's like saying someone's not sick because they "only" have pneumonia and not cancer, or something.

    I think a lot of mental illnesses play together and play off of each other, so in some cases, people are bound to have multiple ones--in some others, it might be a case of overdiagnosis, who knows? I know that Asperger's (which I have) often is coupled with chronic depression and also things like ADD/ADHD; they come as kind of a package deal for some, whereas others might only have depression or only be ADD. It also seems like there are illnesses that are really similar in how they make a person feel but have slightly different descriptions, maybe that leads to multiple diagnoses, as well? Not sure. It's an interesting field to observe as we start to strip away the stigmas of being "just crazy" and actually start treating disorders as legitimate illness.