Arn't I A Woman?: Depression During the Holidays: Shame, Stigma, and Mistletoe



Dec 17, 2014

Depression During the Holidays: Shame, Stigma, and Mistletoe

The thing about anxiety is that it’s great at covering up depression. I think I truly forgot I was depressed these past few months while I began school, because I was too anxious to feel it. It was still there, lying dormant inside me; waiting to erupt without warning at the most inopportune time; but anxiety was my leading lady this fall.

Now that I have some “time off” I have to make up for the work I missed during finals week and I’m feeling the pressure of getting in forty hours. Not having money of your own during the holidays to buy gifts for the people you love, especially when you want so badly to express it to them, elicits feelings of ineptitude and inadequateness- I don’t care what anyone says. Also, bills.

Instead of enjoying the almost 30 lb. weight loss I’ve made, I am racked with terror about whether I can maintain it. I want to plow face first into a chocolate fountain and I want it to rain wine and champagne in my mouth.
Overindulgence as self-harm is similar to cutting. People cut themselves because it releases serotonin into their brain, so the pain literally makes them feel good. It’s not something crazy people do- just start hacking themselves up because they are sad. The holidays already encourage overindulgence, and now my old friend depression has returned in this cold winter. Evolutionarily, our bodies were developed to store large quantities of food in the winter and then rest, waiting for Spring.
I am feeling defeated.

Instead of enjoying the blossoming relationship I have with what seems to be a really great guy, my depressed mind is preventing me from fully experiencing it. What if he only likes me precisely because I have lost weight and look a certain way, and now this relationship is contingent on a variable that could change? I feel pressure to be beautiful very deeply. I feel pressure to have a perfect body very, very deeply. Even my feminist practice can’t pierce the depths of this; it is insidious.

Instead of being grateful, I am mad at myself for not being grateful. All the things I thought would make me happy: a relationship, healthy body, involvement in local art and organizing, finding my voice through academia…..I feel nothing but pressure to maintain them now. I feel like a spoiled brat for feeling pressure instead of gratitude. I want to feel gracious. I feel it there somewhere, submerged in the nothingness.

No matter what, it’s like my brain is just telling me it’s never good enough, you’re never good enough, you will always fail, you will always hurt and disappoint people, and you don’t deserve the life you want. The holidays just put a bow on top to dress it up and make it look pretty.

Beyond the fa├žade of celebration, the holidays can be very hard for those of us who suffer from mental disorders. Very lonely. Very isolating. And the last thing we do is talk about it, for fear of it coming of as complaining, being ungrateful. Why can’t you just be happy Jessie? Or of course, there is the continuing stigma we fear. No matter how many people come out to talk about their personal experiences with mental health, stigma still pervades.

The real reason I wrote this is because of a recent post on my facebook feed that linked to an article about Darren Wilson’s lead witness. This witness backed Wilson’s clearly bullshit story about the MURDER of Mike Brown. The article’s headline read: “Darren Wilson’s Key Witness Was Bipolar Racist Liar.”

Racist? Bad.
Liar? That’s bad too. Coupled together, these are especially horrible considering their context.
But Bipolar?

Bipolar is a very common disorder, so why are we linking it to racism and lying? Suffering from Bipolar disorder does not gauge someone’s moral compass. I am not Bipolar but I have close, very high functioning friends that are. My depression has similar symptoms to Bipolar disorder. Some in mental health communities aren't even sure of many psychiatric labels anymore anyways; the DSM is in bed with the pharmaceutical companies. Therapists are starting to refuse to diagnose patients for fear of the stigma that might follow. It’s 20fuckign14 and we are still grouping in “bipolar” with “racist liar.”

The most heartbreaking thing to me was that no one said anything. No one commented that maybe it was an odd or extemporaneous addition. That broke my heart, because I have so many activist friends, yet mental health issues still fail to even register on many people’s radar.  I understand it’s a really intense case to try and split into a separate issue, so I won’t do that. All I can say is, that woman is probably- most definitely- a lying, racist piece of shit; but it isn’t because she is bipolar. That’s just poor journalism and obscuration of the real issues in this case and with this witness and it needs to be addressed. It just perpetuates a systematic process of fear-mongering people into believing the myths of mental illness. I take it very personal when people throw around terms like “Bipolar” in a pejorative, general way. I didn’t bother saying something on the post, because quite frankly I don’t really think anyone gives a shit about most things I have to say. I think I come off as pompous in my attempts to talk shop about issues important to me on Facebook, so I am trying not to. But I internalize headlines like that, and I have to express myself. Fuck Darren Wilson. Fuck the systematic racism that allows police to internally colonize Black communities and get away with the murder of Black men and women. Fuck that witness. But why continue to stigmatize the 5.7 MILLION people currently living with Bipolar disorder for something they can’t control just so your headline is more sensational? Fuck you dude.  You’re part of the problem.

My fears, they all become self-fulfilling.  Happy Holidays.

“Christmas is, was, and always will be about the trappings. The lights and the tinsel they use to cover up the sordidness, the corruption. No, Veronica, there is no Santa Claus.”

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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio