Just Snap Out of It

Society has developed some seriously bad attitudes toward mental illness.  It’s no surprise.  We see it attached to the stigma of it.  We’re treated like lepers, as if this were a terribly contagious thing.

Depression is no exception.  Today, a lot of people have been discussing the topic of the “Just Snap Out of It” phenomenon that occurs out there.  Honestly, there is a saying out there about how if a person hasn’t experienced it, then they can never truly know.  A person who hasn’t experienced clinical depression, either in the form of MDD or BP depression can never truly know it’s depth and breadth.  It is an all encompassing monster that claims every last bit of life and any possible joy that can come from it.

Having Bipolar Disorder, I am a person who naturally experiences some sometimes pretty obvious mood swings.  And the attitudes toward it are so completely off.  I have never had a person treat me poorly while I was in a manic episode.  Not one.  Not even when the plainly awful behaviors were showing.  Each person seemed to find it charming, amusing, or interesting.  Even when there were moments where I was so out of control that I was scared out of my wits, not a single person around me seemed to notice that there was something absolutely wrong with it.

No, my energy and spirits were high.  I would act impulsively, and people would take it as spontaneity.  I’d be overly, annoyingly chatty, and rudely interrupting others, but they took it as being outgoing.  Everyone seemed to think that was a sign that I wasn’t depressed anymore.  They seemed to think that it was some kind of miraculous recovery from “being like that”.

People only seem to take notice when I am depressed or mixed, like it’s some kind of disease that I choose to be afflicted with.  And the comments are absolutely endless, because everyone seems to have their own opinion about it.  It’s as if they consider themselves to be the authority on depression, anxiety and sadness in general. I will constantly hear phrases like, “Get over it” and “Get a grip” as if just snapping out of it were an option for me.

Meanwhile, people without mental health diagnoses start flinging clinical terms around, like they had some true application to their fleeting, shallow emotion.  For instance, “Oh, I’m so *bipolar* today”, instead of just saying that they are moody, or women arbitrarily making a comparison between PMS and Bipolar Disorder.   Or “I’ve just been so depressed lately”, to reference a little bit of discontent or sadness.

It’s not cute. It’s not funny. No one with those diagnoses thinks that it’s witty that someone is taking a serious clinical term with so much guilt and stigma that it could bring down a religion, and applying it to their BS, frivolous emotions!

It does everything it can to minimize those conditions.  It puts it in a light that we have some kind of real control over it.  As if it were something that a person can just “snap out of”.  It implies that a person chooses to be disordered.  It also puts a shameful connotation of attention seeking behavior.

Yeah, it’s the life, let me tell you. If I were doing anything for attention, it wouldn’t be this. It would probably be something more hilarious, like plastering myself with an obscenely worded banner and rollerblading through Downtown. Depression isn’t newsworthy, but that sure is.  Or maybe I’d be doing something a little more productive or noteworthy, like finding a cure for cancer.  But no, my depression is just that interesting that I would choose to gain that much needed attention from people I don’t even know or care about.

I have to wonder if the general public has to be so naive that they would actually be jealous over it.  So much emphasis is put on the “just get over it” ideals, as if that were possible. If I could will myself out of this state, don’t you think I would do it already? It would be more logical to think that I want to reclaim my life and be a productive person.  But no, according to others who are ignorant enough of mental illness, I am perfectly content to have disordered behaviors.   Sure, who doesn’t love ignoring their kid because the voices just got too loud? Personally, I love gripping my ears and screaming, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!”

And as a result of this blatant ignorance, I am really starting to believe that some are just plain jealous.  Because, they seem to think that those with disorder aren’t being responsible for their emotions and behaviors that result.  I certainly have quarrels with wanting to thrust a sense of selfishness and entitlement out there, because it’s what I have to do to take care of myself and my own in this world.  It’s those same people that shove themselves and their ideals down other people’s throats, only to make them feel bad. Misery loves company, and we’re perfect targets, right?

The point is this.  If a person is out there reading this and getting offended, it’s time to take a step back and think hard.  Is it so fair to be so judgmental?  Isn’t it about time to take a look from another perspective?  Does a person with a congenital disorder choose to be symptomatic?  It would be an entirely different story if I were refusing treatment, but like anyone else, I am keeping my appointments and taking my medication according to doctors orders.  We don’t blame someone for their symptoms when they have a seizure.  Why should this be any different?

Let me assure everyone.  If could have snapped out of this disorder and been a “normal” person, I may have done it, instead of living this ongoing nightmare.

25 thoughts on “Just Snap Out of It

  1. I remember when friends would tell me I was faking it, just wanted attention or should “get over it” and I was always saying to them, “Oh yes, cause I’m having so much fun being like this! You should join me sometime!” 😛

  2. Having just gone through a month of trying to level my daughter out, I really appreciated it when my child-less brother asked if I had told her to “knock this shit off”. Huh, no I haven’t told her that but she can barely move right now so maybe I’ll save that approach for later. Grrrr…. Sorry you have had to put up with that crap. xox

    • It’s okay, It’s just part of it, you know. Like I said in the beginning, there are some really terrible notions out there that exist about mental illness, ranging from thinking a person can just “knock it off” to not believing in it at all. Some people go as far as saying that others use it as an excuse. I once had a friend tell me that I “use it as a crutch” to avoid anything unpleasant in my life, so I could go on doing whatever I feel like. Can you believe that?

      I’m glad that you’re so kind to your daughter. Not all parents are so kind and understanding about it. You really are a good parent.

      • thanks. A crutch?! really? huh. Clearly that person as never had a bout of depression which I have I think three or four times in my life, one that I self-medicated for. She should be grateful, not judgmental and what is wrong with someone saying that to a person with BPD or any other chronic condition, that’s like judging someone for having diabetes. grrrrr

        • Maybe it is a crutch, people use crutches because they have problems walking and not because they like it, I use a real cane and it’s not for fun, in a way our treatments and self-care because of our illness are a crutch but we can’t live without them, the same way you can’t expect someone using a crutch to be able to walk normally.
          It’s better to walk with a crutch than to crawl around the floor in pain. I’ll take that crutch for mental illness so I can make my life better.

        • I wouldn’t say it’s a crutch in the way that he was referring to it. But, you’re right. Maybe it is a way of accepting our limitations. We have this crutch so we can get around, and at least make the attempt to keep up. This is opposed to crawling on the floor, or worse, being completely bedridden by the whole thing.

        • That’s the worst part, the guy that told me that had anxiety disorders. Want to talk about deflecting? He used his “anxiety” as an excuse to dope out on pills and cut out on work. That’s a person that was supposed to understand mental health disorders and how when certain symptoms arise, we just can’t help them.

          I do everything I can to avoid an episode. I take my medication faithfully and see my doctor regularly. I am currently getting my medications all swapped around and tweaked because I’ve been living this past year in one episode or another. It’s been a perpetual hell that I really think I ended up getting laid off over.

          And when I’m in an episode, I do everything I can do get out of it. What people don’t realize is that sometimes fighting it only makes it worse. And then, when I dedicate all of this time for caring for myself, I end up being “selfish”. In the end, I’m selfish for having and episode, and I’m selfish for taking extra time to deal with it. Damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

  3. Great post, I get a lot of people thinking I choose my symptoms, even mental health professional say it.

    I worry about the part you talk about refusing treatment, I don’t think people that refuse treatment are choosing to be sick, I refused treatment before and I was accused of it but in reality that treatment was making me feel worse, I was refusing treatment because I wanted to get better, in my case it was the right choice and now I’m trying a new treatment, for others it might be the wrong choice but they believe it’s for the best, others might be so depressed that they see no hope, I don’t think anyone chooses to suffer, even in extreme cases like suicide all decisions are to stop the pain even if they are the wrong choices.

    I just need to say that people that have seizures and disabilities are blamed for it too, epilepsy for example has a lot of stigma on it just like mental illness, people do think you can stop having seizures if you want and do the right things, in general society thinks anyone can choose to be normal, healthy and happy, it doesn’t matter what you have, people like to think they have more control about life than what they actually have so they blame people with those conditions of choosing being like that, they can keep believing they can control life and bad things are never going to happen to them because they would never choose to let it happen.

    Sorry about the long comment.

    • It’s even worse when mental health professionals say it. And I spent some college training to be one. Usually, that’s forbidden, unless it’s a part of therapy. And the only reason that would be a part of therapy is when a professional is attempting to have a patient practice mindfulness over their own symptoms, not take the heat for things that they are unable to help.

      And that’s another part of the problem I didn’t touch upon. Because of the societal attitudes toward mental health that we are ultimately “in control” of our own thoughts and feelings, we are left to think that maybe we should just “get a grip”. And then we fall short, and think, “Why?! Why can’t I do this?!” Which makes us get down on ourselves even more, creating this vicious cycle. And honestly, in my opinion, I don’t really think it’s all that different from the cycle of abuse.

      In your case, that’s different. Refusing treatment out of denial and refusing treatment because treatment didn’t work for you are two totally separate things. I’ve refused mental health counseling on multiple occasions, because I’ve been failed by it before. When I refer to those that are refusing treatment, it’s those that are refusing treatment without even attempting it.

      I’ve known a few people who legitimately chose to refuse treatment for a variety of reasons. One refused treatment to avoid the stigma of mental illness. Another refused treatment out of pure denial, though they had been diagnosed with several different serious mental illnesses. Here’s an interesting one. I knew a person who refused treatment because they preferred their symptoms. That’s right. They opted for mania, though they had seen the destruction it caused their family.

      You know, you’re right. Society does seem to get this idea that humans “choose” their own misery and illness. And I don’t think that pop psychology and motivational speakers have helped this misconception. It pushes an idea that we have complete control over every aspect of ourselves and our lives. If that were true, then no one would ever have crises or tragedy strike their lives. We can’t be prepared for what’s coming, or else we’d be living in constant fear of the unknown. And that, my friend, is exactly the road that leads to anxiety disorder.

      Long comments are always welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Great post Lulu. Right on the money. Some of the things that have been said to me in the past have left me feeling judged and awful. People are ignorant. Their attitudes contribute to feeling like an outcast.

    • Hey thanks! And worse than anything, those attitudes seem to be contagious. People come up with all of these rationalizations and deflections for dealing with the reality of mental illness. Mental illness just is. It might be unpleasant sometimes to handle that person, but a truly understanding and educated person would have some sympathy for the situation, at least.

  5. This post is simply brilliant. It is well argued with the illustrations. The various points are argued carefully and the illustrations that were provided clearly speak to those patients suffering from the stigma of mentall illness (with an emphasis on those, like myself, who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder).
    This piece needs and deserves to be read by a far broader readership.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Maybe we could petition to get it on Freshly Pressed! LOL! You know, I’ve been blogging for over a year and have not received that honor. Not complaining. Sometimes, it’s better to be underground.

      Thank you for thinking this is brilliant. I really appreciate it. The emphasis is mainly on mood disorders in general. And it can reach to anxiety disorders too, which I did fail to include. The point is, it wouldn’t be a disorder unless there was a level of dysfunction. Dysfunction cannot be helped.

      Again, thank you so much. And if anyone wants to reblog this, I am perfectly happy with that.

  6. It is completely frustrating when people think you can snap out of it. All I can say if that the ones that say that, have never felt the deep, dark, painful depths of despair. I am glad they have not. I try to not let them get me angry when they display so much ignorance. I have had funky moods that I could “snap out of”, but there is no snapping out of crippling depression that takes over your life. I have lost years of my life, and nearly lost my life itself when in the grips of depression. Nothing I can do will get that time back, and it certainly was not my choice for how I wanted to live my life.

    • I would agree. They haven’t felt that intense distress and hopelessness that comes at the bottom of the pit of depression. They can’t relate. The way I describe it to people is pretty simple. I relate it to the worst thing that has ever happened to them. Often, people will tell me that the worst they have ever felt is when someone died. And I tell them, “Imagine that fresh pain of someone important in your life dying come out of nowhere and stick with you no matter what you do.”

      The “no matter what you do” part is the part that is most confusing to them. How can a person get emotions out of nowhere? And I tell them, “That is precisely what mood disorder is. Emotions that come from nowhere.” Disorder means dysfunction, period. Dysfunctional emotional responses are the core to affective disorders.

      But still, there are people who won’t get it, because they are too rigid in their thinking. The attitude is this: “A person can’t get emotions for no reason. So disorder isn’t real.” If that were true, then why would 1 in 4 people have a disorder?

      It’s awful to hear of the destruction that disorder causes. I can detail the ravages of my own disorder and the tatters it’s left parts of my life in. So far, I’ve lost most of my past year to this. Every day feels like just another day of survival. And it’s pretty depressing in itself. That’s how this thing feeds into itself. But a lot of people don’t see that either.

  7. Well-fucking-said. God damn it…

  8. “I have never had a person treat me poorly while I was in a manic episode. Not one. Not even when the plainly awful behaviors were showing. Each person seemed to find it charming, amusing, or interesting.”

    YES. I so identify with this. The whole thing about mania essentially being more smiled upon and positively reinforced. It sure doesn’t help me want to maintain the clean living habits that keep me stable.

    • I feel as if mania is actually preferred. Isn’t that kind of sick, you know? We encourage people to be these overachieving, extremely extroverted people who act recklessly on whatever impulse strikes them, and the consequences just seem to be completely forgivable. Especially for a person who dives headlong into a manic episode after a depressive one. That’s the whole reason why doctors couldn’t figure out why my depression kept relapsing when I was diagnosed with MDD. The meds caused hypomanic and manic episodes, so it looked like I was all better. Instead, i was more of a wreck than ever! And you think that a professional would be able to tell the difference between miraculous recovery and mania.

      It’s tough to want to be stable when everyone treats you like your golden in a manic episode. I’ve had people mistake my hyperactivity for being high energy and being in high spirits. I’ve had others mistake it as enthusiasm and ambition. It was only in those times when the manic episode turned dark that it became a problem, but not even as much as depression would be. Instead of trying to help, people would just try to temper and tame me.

      I guess in their eyes, it was better that I was up instead of down. No one wants to deal with the sad sack, right? And I would personally think that I would’ve gotten annoying after awhile.

  9. Urgh. I understand this on a depressive level and also eating disordered level. I’ve heard “You would be alright if you just ate something” too many times to count, not to mention the use of “anorexic” as a descriptor for body shape. Argh. xo.

    • You’re right. This isn’t just applicable to mood disorder, though it’s something I personally related to it. I would say it’s probably even more applicable to personality disorder and eating disorder. If people believe that a depressed person can just snap out of it, then I can only imagine the atrocious attitudes toward those things.

      Now, in my life, I have heard this recurring phrase, “You’re always like that.” I despise that phrase, because it insinuates that depression is a part of my personality. It implies that I am just a melancholy kind of person, and my distress should be ignored. It’s another put down, and another way to minimize the condition. It seriously compounds it.

      But, what if I am “just like that”? Then it starts to chip away at any kind of stable self I had managed to collect. So, it works like an attack too.

      Thanks for bringing other applications into this. It really helped me expand the meaning.

  10. Pingback: Short Menu | Alternative Depression Treatments

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