People usually call me “weak” when I tell them I have depression. Probably because of the (false) opinion that only white people can afford the luxuries of depression, it is also (wrongfully) believed that people who suffer from mental illnesses are either searching for pity, bewitched, or weak.
None of those is true. Despite there being scientific evidence that points out that depression is caused by a hormonal imbalance – that means it’s a legit medical condition – we still have to tumble and toil in a world that disregards mental health.
Depression is something I know. It’s something I live with. It’s something I’m constantly having to keep at bay. It’s difficult, it really is. Not just because I’m sensitive by nature, and prone to overemphasizing every emotion and feeling. But also because my “inability to cope with my life” is looked upon with derision and disgust.
Society wants a “thick skin”; a person who’ll overcome and withstand every circumstance thrown at them. It’s part of this alpha- male fixation we seem to have, as a species. We cheer the hero. We boo the villain. We laugh and roll eyes at the person who gets anxiety attacks whenever they have to go out.
So when a person we know says they have a mental illness or they have unstable mental health, they’re laughed at and called “crazy.” They’re said to be making excuses. They’re forever looked at as weaklings.
“If so- and- so could overcome such a situation and not break down, who are you to say that your life sucks?” is the prevailing message of our culture.
While the hero complex has inspired many to get off their asses and take charge of their lives, it doesn’t work that way for everybody. Other people need patience. Other people need therapy. Other people need empathy. They might even need medication. There’s nothing inherently weak or misguided about this. In fact, it requires strength upon strength to overcome debilitating fears and anxieties.
While mental health hasn’t really gotten a heyday (not in South Africa, anyway), there are voices willing to acknowledge the dangers of people being taken to izinyanga and being told to “grow up” instead of actually receiving the help they need.
I’m one of them. Not a very loud voice, but a very aware one.
Whoever you are. Whatever is wrong.
In my space, you’re sure to find a safe space for mental health issues. Always.