The just get on/deal with it fallacy

Posted by Arjen Lentz on May 18th, 2011

I was recently told this – it’s quite common to hear it generically and it ranks high on the list of “very unhelpful things to say to a person with depression”, but I hadn’t had it tossed at me personally in recent times.

The reason it’s utterly unhelpful is that it presumes that a person can just “snap out of it”, “stop whinging” or whatever, and that completely disregards the medical background of the situation. It’s just not how it works. To put it bluntly, it’s essentially denying the existence of depression as a medical condition. And while individuals are entitled to their own opinions, I reckon there’s been enough medical research and experience amassed to safely conclude that depression exists – so I prefer to not get drawn into discussions on that baseline, or be put in a situation where that gets questioned.

I consider myself quite lucky. I’ve always been able to get up in the morning. I don’t necessarily feel so good and my ability to do things during the day may be affected, but I get up. I know that others don’t. Because they just can’t. While that may be very difficult to comprehend for someone who has never been in that situation, a little bit of understanding, compassion and empathy helps.

This is just one example. I’ll soon scribble another post reflecting on what might go on in my head and outside on a day that things are not working so well.

Awareness in the community is important, which is an important reason for BlueHackers’ existence – but those with depression can also take a useful lesson from all this though, because for many of us depression is cyclical – it’s not at the same level all the time, and there are very good periods. There can be obvious negative triggers such as stress, illness, bad diet, lack of sleep (I’ve written about that earlier) some of which you have influence over, and others that we may not know about or can’t directly influence.

If you manage to put things in place during good times, it’ll give you a kind of buffer in bad times. A habit is easier to keep up than it is to get started, that is, change often requires more effort than maintaining the status quo, even though the status quo might be you going for a daily walk. That may seem a bit contradictory at first, but we’re primarily talking about mental energy here, not physical. Now imagine, if you were some able to keep doing that daily walk, that alone may not prevent bad episodes but is quite likely to lower the severity and duration and overall keep you in better shape – in this case literally as well, since it is exercise! But think of a habit of going to bed at a set time, reading a book or doing some relaxation… same applies.

Mind you, I’m not perfect with this – I can be a complete slacker, but every time looking back I can see the results both of doing (some of) this and of not doing it. It makes a big difference for me. So, there we have a possibly useful strategy derived  indirectly from an otherwise useless (or even harmful) comment. Naturally, your milage may vary, everybody is different. But perhaps it’s something you can try, starting at the right time. And if you have experience with it already, perhaps you can write a comment!

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