Tag Archives: myth-busting

Let’s Bust Some Myths: Depressed People Are Always Sad or They’re Faking!

Last year, after the incredibly scientific method of “looking at Facebook photos”, Manulife Insurance Company decided that Nathalie Blanchard wasn’t really depressed, she was just faking it, and thus cut off her disability-related funding.

Mix up a few details, and Blanchard’s story is a pretty common one. Whenever I talk to people who are currently living with long- or short-term depression, or have lived with it in the past, they tell me the same story: Friends thought they were faking because they managed to get out and have a good time. They laughed at a joke once and everyone decided they were “over” their “funk”. They didn’t act like stereotypes of depressed people, so they must not actually be depressed.

Woe, and all that.

This is what short-term depression was like for me: I spent four months getting up, going to work, doing my job quite well, eating at work, coming home, feeding the cat, lying down on the couch, falling asleep, and waking up to do it all again the next day when the cat bit me to remind me that I had to feed him. I didn’t answer the phone. I didn’t go online. I didn’t eat when I wasn’t at work. I didn’t go into my bedroom. I enjoyed my job, and was often bubbly and vivacious at work, and while everyone outside of my job figured there was something up, everyone I worked with thought I was great fun and having a lovely time.

This is what short-term depression looked like for my friend: She spent a few months being aware of every possible way she could kill herself in a room. She was really angry and yelled at people a lot. She would go for long walks in the dark and wonder if someone would just hit her with a car and be done with it. She cut off most contact with her friends and spent as much time as possible alone. She was told that she should “get over it” – whatever “it” was – because everyone gets “down” sometime and she was just being a drama queen.

This is what short-term depression looked like for another friend of mine: He didn’t feel like doing anything, so he didn’t. His doctor encouraged him to go out with friends, so he went out with friends, and laughed when other people laughed and acted as normal as he could. Sometimes he’d have a really good time, and then he’d feel bad because if he was having a good time, he probably wasn’t depressed, and that meant he was just a horrible person, so he’d go back into his room and not do anything because otherwise he was bad, and then the doctor would encourage him to go out and the cycle would begin anew. But most of the time he just didn’t feel much of anything. People told him he must be getting over everything because otherwise he wouldn’t be getting out.

Depression can be sitting alone in a room being sad or down or feeling empty and alone. But when this is the only thing that people think of when they think of depression, not only are there cases like Blanchard’s, but there is pressure on the person with depression, from friends, family members, co-workers, even themselves, to look “depressed enough”.

This stereotype can also lead to people with depression delaying seeking assistance. When I was depressed, I didn’t think I was really depressed, because I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t crying. I just didn’t want to talk to anyone. At all. Ever again. But I just knew I wasn’t depressed because I didn’t want to die. It took me many months to get any of the help I needed, and many of my friendships were irreparably damaged in the meantime.

This stereotype can also lead to more social isolation for someone with depression. If one needs to “act depressed” in order for people to take depression seriously, that can lead to sitting alone even if sitting alone isn’t what one wants to be doing.

I can’t tell you how people will behave when they’re depressed because, even when depressed, people can and do make all sorts of choices. They may do any of the things I’ve referred to here, or they may do something else entirely. If you think you’re depressed, I encourage you to do what you need to do to get through it, and I hope you find the help you need to recover.

For your reading enjoyment, a “Things People Say To People With Depression” Bingo Card. It looks like it was originally posted by inbar–1423 on Tumblr. The link is to one with the image described.

ETA: Actually, the bingo card was originally created by YouKiddinRight on Livejournal. Thanks for the correction!

Why “being nice” isn’t enough

On December 30, I wrote a post about the myth that people with disabilities are out to sue everyone else into compliance, booga booga fear the scary crippled people. In there I mentioned that Don & I had gone off to the mall and had difficulties getting into the shops, since apparently “wheelchair accessible” doesn’t mean “keep your aisles clear of junk”.

I wrote an email to the mall in question:

Subject: Accessibility and the Mall


I recently visited your mall with my husband, a full-time wheelchair user. This was not our first visit to your mall, but it may be our last.

Many of the shops in your mall are not actually wheelchair accessible for a regular wheelchair user. The aisles between shelving units are rarely wide enough for a wheelchair user to not risk knocking something over. Often the aisles and open floor spaces are covered in sales items. Things jut into the aisles that could knock someone in the head. These issues do not even touch on sales staff that ignore people using wheelchairs [1. Oh, hey, we went to Don’s favourite Big & Tall shop in the other mall earlier this week. When he was by himself, and thus struggling with the sweaters, he got completely ignored. When I came into the shop to find him, I was offered assistance immediately. Even though she was standing not a foot from where Don was wheeling around looking for more sweaters, the same sales assistant completely ignored him. So, yeah, I’m going to be writing another email. But I’m especially annoyed because this is the only shop we’ve been to that sells clothing in Don’s size – where else are we going to go?], or stores that are so crowded that a wheelchair user cannot get around – both of which are human-related issues, and not ones I would expect mall administration to be able to deal with, although some sort of policy discussion on that would likely be helpful.

Although your mall has an accessibility policy, I can see nothing on your website that discusses if the stores within the mall are expected to uphold it, or what expectations the mall has that stores will be accessible.

We planned on spending the day yesterday taking advantage of the extended Sunday hours and Boxing Week Sales. Instead, we purchased one item and left. It was impossible for my husband to enter many of the stores that carry items we would want to purchase, or, if he could enter them, he could only get part of the way through the store before the above issues made it impossible for him to go any further back.

I feel many of these issues could be solved if the mall enforced an accessibility policy for the stores within it.

Thank you for your time,

Anna [Last Name]

I did get an email back, which was very polite and understanding and full of fluff. I won’t quote the whole thing, but this one line stood out to me:

Unfortunately we cannot enforce an accessibility policy, but we will be making every effort to encourage our retailers to provide barrier free access through education and an incentive program.

I don’t quite know why the mall can’t enforce an accessibility policy. I do know there is not a Canada-wide accessibility policy, and Nova Scotia is not exactly noted for accessibility-friendly policies.

In a world where people just needed to ask for assistance and voila, it would appear, as though magic, we wouldn’t need an accessibility policy. I could just drop an email to the mall, and that would be the end of it. Heck, I probably wouldn’t need to drop an email to the mall – from the goodness of their hearts, they would already have a thorough accessibility program in place, covering things I never think to ask for, like scent-free policies and braille signs and more seating [1. Well, I used to remember to ask for more seating, and then Don got a wheelchair and now I have to think about it.] and… well, things I never think to ask for.

This is why I’m displeased that my country doesn’t have even a token-effort federally mandated accessibility law. The mall, which can mandate things like “required to follow fire codes” and “required to open during mall hours” cannot (or chooses not to – I suspect the latter, frankly) require the same stores to follow an accessibility policy.

But yeah – if we’re all just really really nice, maybe they’ll do so anyway.