The other day I had a routine gyno appointment with a new doctor that I had never seen before. She spent the first half of our appointment trying to get to know me, as they usually do. She slowly scanned down my health chart, asking for clarification here and there. “It says you’re taking antidepressants. Lexapro? Why are you depressed? You’re so beautiful?”
Hmm…”you’re so beautiful?” Is that even related to the question she just asked me?
I replied, “Well, I’m not depressed anymore. Since I’ve been taking a low dose of the Lexapro, I’ve improved substantially”
“What’s your background?” she asked. “Your ethnicity”
“Assyrian”, I said.
“See! There is no reason why you should be depressed. Imagine all of the individuals who are living in Syria right now, in a third world country. You live here, you are so lucky. You are beautiful, young, healthy. You shouldn’t be depressed.”
Wow. Who does this “doctor” think that she is? She is basically telling me that I don’t have the right to feel depressed. She is basically telling me that I don’t deserve to be depressed.
Completely aside from the fact that she clearly does not understand that Assyrians don’t come from Syria, I was entirely offended. Depression does not need a reason to rear its ugly head. Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of you being wealthy, beautiful, intelligent, skinny, etc. And the thing is, you should never be made to feel GUILTY for it. If you have depression, then chances are you already feel guilty for other reasons–acting less like ‘yourself’, bringing down the emotional climate of any room you walk into, cancelling or rejecting plans with friends, lashing out at people you love for no good reason, etc. Many people do not understand that depression is not selective about its victims. It is relentless, and often attacks unexpectedly. People who are depressed, in many cases, can’t tell you why they are feeling down…they just are. And let me tell you, it sucks.
As I sat in the room with the doctor, I began to zone out of the rest of the conversation. In my head, I had already decided that I would never return to see her again. I felt completely misunderstood by her. I know that I am privileged and blessed in my life, and I wish that those reasons could serve as an inoculation against Major Depressive Disorder…but they don’t. That’s just not how it works.
Depression is a serious illness. At my worst, I would consider driving my car into walls on the freeway as an escape from the pain that I was feeling. Thank God, I no longer have these thoughts. But if I were truly still in the same place, this doctor’s words might have pushed me to hold down the gas pedal, close my eyes, and take a deep breath (perhaps my very last one). Even if I had a mere sliver of hope left in my depressed state, this doctor’s words would have shattered it into pieces.
When a person is depressed, they need compassion. They need patience. They need support. This doctor provided none of the above. This doctor was extremely ignorant, and came across as critical and judgmental. The sad fact is, there are so many people like her who don’t truly understand depression. Unfortunately, it makes the stigma of mental health illnesses even worse than they already are. If doctors are judging patients for being depressed, then why is it a surprise when the general public does?
No, you are not any less of a person for being depressed. No, you are not any less of a person for needing antidepressants…or any other medication for that reason. Not every person is lucky enough to live their entire life without acquiring a mental illness…whether it’s addiction, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, or any of the other hundred+ illnesses. And if you are, then be thankful every. damn. day. Because tomorrow could be different.
This post is for every person who has ever felt criticized for a mental illness. This post is for every person who has ever felt embarrassed to admit that they are depressed, suicidal, unhappy, etc. You do not need to feel guilty. You do not need to feel ashamed. And most importantly, you are not alone.