So Salty and me were presenting “Laugh It Off” at Turquoise Lodge last Friday, and the support group part of the presentation was going great, and then Jackie’s stand in (our babysitter to make sure we don’t do anything untoward or triggering) jumped in with some comment or another that totally sucked the joy out of the room. I’m going to pick on this lovely young lady to cover my own secret shame that will not be secret soon. Truth told, our handler was very professional and super great, but as Jackie noticed for the past couple of weeks, having her in the midst of the group changed the dynamic.
So there we are, Salty and me, and our handler was not part of the circle of peers by prior planning, and we were laughing and crying and laughing and offering kind words and support and everything else that happens in a peer support group. Our lovely handler jumped in with a comment, from outside the circle, and the conversation dead stopped. What did I say with the wisdom of a thousand Yodas?
“Oh, man, you are such a buzzkill.”
Aw, crap. I caught my error immediately. It wasn’t difficult to miss, like Rosie O’Donnell making her perigee-syzygy. Aw, crap. Crap!
Splendid. I just (jokingly) called someone a “buzzkill” in a room of detox and rehab patients. Thing is, that got the conversation jump started again with laughter and snickers. I made so many apologies, tried to spin it into “You see? This is how deep into our everyday language stigmas run.” Whatever. I messed up. Badly. So unprofessional. And this was the first time our handler sat through this performance.
Just splendid. I made apologies again to the group, and the consensus was it was just fine and no one was offended. Funny dynamic, support groups. Making that stupid faux pas actually made me more popular with the group. Thank the Yodas.
This is another one of those articles I compose that could benefit from some gentle softening, but I’m not going to. This is important, and a feather is not the blunt tool required for a proper illustration.
Here’s the rub. To the Muggle Layperson, the following list of…
Common Things That People Say to Peers Who are Experiencing Major Depression Symptoms
…may seem reasonable, supportive and common sense. To the Peer, these time-honored polished turds are as useful as a magnetic colon in a shrapnel factory in helping us feel any better. No feathers here tonight, ladies and gents!
Here’s the thing about major depression. It’s a disease.
Let me try to explain. People with farsightedness would not choose to have farsightedness. People with leukemia would not choose to have leukemia. People with ulceratic colitis would not choose to have ulceratic colitis. People with major depression would not choose to have major depression. Making any sense? I hope so.
I suppose the guiding principle when reading this list is:
There is a Huge Difference Between “SADNESS” and “DEPRESSION.”
What is this difference? Fair enough. Here’s the difference.
Sadness is a natural reaction that’s the result of something traumatic happening eliciting a real emotional response, such as your favorite cat passing away or Pineapple Fanta being discontinued.
Depression is a result of a malfunctioning organ (The Brain) that only looks like sadness in behavior and is not the same in cause.
Peers, this list will be far too familiar. Muggles, please remember that no one chooses to have major depression. The list will make a lot more sense that way, and it’ll shed some light on why these aren’t the best things to say to someone experiencing major depression, no matter how pure the intent.
I mean, c’mon. Who would choose to have major depression? I’d much rather choose to have a magnetic colon in the shovel & rake aisle of Home Depot.
Just get over it.
Have you tried thinking happy thoughts?
You’re always so negative.
Did you take your meds today?
If you’d get out of bed and do something you’d feel better.
When was the last time you took a shower?
Drama! Drama! Drama!
You aren’t eating enough.
You’re eating too much.
If everyone else can get over their depression, why can’t you?
Do you want to talk about it? You’ll feel better if you talk to someone about it.
You’re strong. You’ll be fine.
Can you try to be normal?
Hey, life sucks. Deal with it.
I sometimes feel you like being depressed.
I know when I’m catching a cold and do something proactive about it. It’s the same for depression. (an executive board member at NAMI Albuquerque shared this bit of wisdom with me when I sat on the board)
Why don’t you just grow up already?
You look horrible!
It’s your choice to be depressed.
Happiness is a choice.
You’re not going to have any friends left if you don’t snap out of it.
I’m sure you’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.
Are you sure your meds are working right?
Aren’t you sick of listening to yourself?
I give up! You’re impossible to talk to!
You’ve got everything so good, so what do you have to feel sad about?
Look, there are a lot of people who are a lot worse off than you.
What do you have to feel depressed about?
You are what you think. Think you’re happy and you’ll be happy.
It’s all in your head.
Geez, lighten up already!
Aren’t you feel better yet?
Take a really long shower. That always cheers me up.
You need to get out more.
It’s a beautiful day! Why don’t you go out in the sunshine?
Everyone gets depressed sometime.
You should get off those meds. They’re just making it worse.
You’re responsible for your own emotions.
We’ve all got our cross to bear.
Talking to you is pointless because you won’t listen.
Your psychiatrist isn’t doing you any favors.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Big surprise, you’re depressed again. Aren’t you always?
I’m sure you’ll get some good poetry out of all of your suffering.
Get over it!
You want to know why you’re so depressed? Because you only think about yourself.
Have you tried some herbal tea with honey?
What you really need is something truly shitty to happen in your life and then you’ll finally have some perspective.
Just pull yourself together.
Depression is your way of punishing and pushing away everyone who cares about you. (Everyone, I’d like you to meet my ex-wife Susan)
Thanks a lot, you’re making me feel all depressed now, too!
You are such a buzzkill!
Get out in the fresh air and out of your bedroom.
Happy is as happy does!
Go dancing, go for a walk, go to a concert, go jogging, go to a movie, go to the bookstore, go for a hike, go for a drive, go to the grocery store and buy your favorite food… it’ll make you feel better.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. (You catch more flies with the shit you’re spewing out of your mouth than the decomposing body of a beached humpback whale… what’s your point?)
No one said life is fair.
You’re worthless. (Lovingly shared with me by the ex-wife Susan)
You are so selfish.
Can’t you understand I’m just trying to help you?
I’m sure if you wait it out you’ll feel better soon.
Ug, I’ve heard this all before.
Can you focus on something else?
Would you like to listen to someone who whines all the time?
What do you have to worry about?
That is so a non-issue.
Your so-called problems aren’t that big of a deal.
Get a hobby.
Dude, get a grip!
Dude, have a chill pill!
Dude, just get over it!
Dude, it’s not all that bad!
Dude, everyone goes through this!
Dude, you’ll be fine!
Dude, don’t worry so much!
It’s not as bad as you think.
Can you try a little harder?
Can you even remember the last time you were happy?
You’re making it up.
You need a boyfriend.
You need a girlfriend.
Just pull yourself together.
You think you have problems.
Get out and volunteer for something, that way you won’t have time to feel sorry for yourself.
What makes you happy? Do that.
It’s official! You’ll never be able to hold down a job! (Another gem from my lovely ex-wife Susan)
Everyone has a little mental illness.
Shit or get off the pot.
When was the last time you took a vacation?
Tell yourself affirming things about yourself and soon you’ll start believing them.
It’s your own fault you’re depressed.
Depression is how God is punishing you for all your sinning. (I had a pastor tell me this one time… I don’t think I like the God he prays to…)
Here comes the Tickle Monster!
You brought this on yourself.
You have absolutely no reason I can see for feeling this way.
I’m really disappointed. I thought you were stronger than this. (the lovely ex-wife Susan again)
You can do anything you want once you set your mind to it.
Once you start feeling better you’ll see how ridiculous you’re being.
Why should I care? You never listen to me when I’m depressed.
You’ve been taking pills for ages. Aren’t you supposed to be cured by now? (Saint Susan, the ex-wife)
You’re too young to think you have real problems already.
You’re the only one you’re hurting.
It’s always your problems first and everyone else second.
Get off your arse and doing something!
It’s no wonder your girlfriend left you!
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! (such a bad bad bad thing to even suggest to someone with depression)
Why don’t you laugh anymore?
Smiling uses less muscles than frowning.
I only loved you when you were successful. (And once more to the Saint Susan barrel of nonsense)
You want to be this way, don’t you?
Everyone has a shitty day every now and then.
Are you sure this isn’t just PMS?
You don’t look depressed to me.
Hey, buck up! It’s not as bad as you think!
Just don’t think about it so much.
Blah blah blah blah blah… cry me a river.
Dear Abby is getting sick of your flood of letters.
You don’t like being depressed? Then change it.
Really? You look fine!
Okay, attention-whore. Just calm down.
Hey, I know exactly what you’re going through. I was really super depressed for about a week after my cat died.
…and the Gold Medal goes to…
Have you tried not being depressed?
Sorry… that’s a knee-jerk reaction to composing this turbulent and trying list over the last hour. Let me share an alternative image that expresses the same sentiment.
Thanks for visiting! Hope you learned a little about the Peer Experience without getting too torqued about the delivery system. And I hope Peers were able to get a chuckle of recognition out of this. You all totally rock out with your socks out!
All of us at Stand Up To Stigma are thrilled to share that we are adding a new education program to our line-up.
I’m Not My Symptoms
We encourage our peer presenters to talk about their mental health symptoms, and talking about our unique symptoms is built in to each of our education programs. However, it is very easy to mistake a peer as the sum total of their symptoms, and this is often the case when we field questions from community audiences or even when we hold presentations and support groups inpatient for other peers.
The misconception that peers are their symptoms is prevalent enough that we’ve chosen to take this stigma on directly. And there it is. Our newest education program. I’m Not My Symptomsfrom SUTS.
We begin training for this new program in January. To be included in the training or for more information, please email email@example.com.
Stand Up To Stigma is excited to announce our partnership with The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA Albuquerque). This collaboration is to bring all the resources and benefits of peer support to our peer presenters trained in our Stand Up To Stigma education programs. Peer support is an essential component for success on a peer’s recovery journey, and DBSA Albuquerque peer support groups are strongly endorsed for Stand Up To Stigma peer presenters and mental health peers in our communities.
DBSA Albuquerque support groups adhere to Eight Guiding Principles:
Share the air – Everyone who wishes to speak should have the opportunity to do.
One person speaks at a time – Each person should be allowed to speak free from interruption and side conversations.
What is said here stays here – This is the essential principle of confidentiality and MUST be respected by all.
Differences of opinion are o.k. – We are all entitled to our own point of view.
We are all equal – Accept cultural, linguistic, social and racial differences and promote their acceptance.
Use “I” language – Because we do not participate in support groups as credentialed professionals, we do not INSTRUCT or ADVISE. We however do share from our own personal experiences. We are unique individuals and only we know what is best for our own health (along with our doctor’s recommendations). Example: “In my experience, I have found . . .”
It’s o.k. not to share – People do not have to share if they do not wish to.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to make the discussion groups a safe place to share – We respect confidentiality, treat each other with respect and kindness, and show compassion.
DBSA Albuquerque is the longest running DBSA support group in New Mexico and is considered as the most highly regarded mental health peer support organization in New Mexico.
We are looking forward to our continued close collaboration with DBSA Albuquerque and all the benefits this partnership brings to peers and our communities.
DBSA Albuquerque and Stand Up To Stigma strongly believe that . . .
Stand Up To Stigma and DBSA Albuquerque are recruiting peers for our Peer Focus Groups.
Currently, we are seeking peers who have life experience with law enforcement while in crisis. Your experience doesn’t need to be “positive” or “negative.” We are giving priority to peers who are willing to share their life experiences with other peers and are comfortable sharing their stories (anonymously if you’d prefer) with law enforcement.
Our peer focus group meets once a week for one to two hours.
Week One (Second Tuesday of the month) – MHRAC Meeting
Meet at the Rock at Noonday from 5 PM to 7 PM
Mental Health Response Advisory Committee monthly meeting.
Be prepared to take notes on any questions or comments you’ll have.
Dinner is provided by The Rock.
Week Two – Education Night
Meet with peer focus group to discuss any questions you have from the MHRAC meeting.
This includes policies discussed, acronyms, meeting participants, agency names and purposes, etc.
Week Three – Directed Discussion Night
Meet with peer focus group to discuss any issues, needs, and concerns from the MRHAC meeting.
Our discussion is preparation for creating the solutions we require to present to MHRAC.
Week Four – Brainstorming & Creating Solutions
Meet with peer focus group to create solutions based on our identified issues, needs, and concerns, as well as our previous week’s directed discussion.
We will be preparing our report to present to MHRAC on the next Second Tuesday of the month.
We appreciate your time and consideration. Join us and make a real difference in our community!
Please note, SUTS CEO and DBSA Albuquerque president elect Steve Bringe resigned from the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee to pursue independent advisement of MHRAC and other committees related to law enforcement. Our peer focus group is a free community service provided by Stand Up To Stigma, LLC, and is not affiliated with MHRAC, DOJ, and APD. We are an independent peer community group.