There used to be a commercial that aired a lot when I was younger. I can’t remember the brand of antidepressant or the exhaustive list of side-effects, but I do remember that depression was portrayed by a fuzzy black bathrobe with a pair of googly eyes. A cartoon woman would roll out of bed, slink over to her towel hook, throw her Depression bathrobe on, and wouldn’t be able to do anything for the rest of the day until she talked to her doctor to see if Antidepressant X was right for her.
There were a few things that bothered me about this.
One, who just lounges around in a bathrobe? Maybe it’s because I am constantly sweating to some degree, but I would rather chillax in something much lighter than a plush bathrobe. Second–and probably more important–why would she put the robe on in the first place? I mean, she must’ve noticed that this robe had a big pair of googly eyes and was sighing in a way that indicated that it was not in the best of moods. So why would she put the damn thing on in the first place? It just made no sense.
I think the main problem is in the analogy. Depression isn’t like a bathrobe. It’s not something cuddly that you wrap around yourself after a long, hard day. Depression is a shadow in your periphery. It’s an overwhelming sense of sadness, irritation, fatigue–you name it–that completely dwarfs your personality, twisting you into a person that you barely even recognize. It is lying in bed, staring at the clock, wondering when you’re going to feel like yourself again.
In simpler terms, depression and depressive episodes are just giant pains in the ass. So here’s my pitch for a new antidepressant commercial:
Picture a cartoon version of yourself. You’re chipping away at your latest obligation (paper, blog post, etc.). Suddenly you feel it: the warm breath on the back of your neck. The culprit flashes onto the screen surrounded by the bloodcurdling screams of the innocent: DEPRESSIVE EPISODE. At first, you’re completely shocked. But how? you ask yourself. You’ve been on your medication for months. That was supposed to fix everything! That’s when your fear turns to mild annoyance. Because you’ve done this before. You know that even though some days are going to be a lot harder than others, most days you’re going to be a muted version of yourself, conscious of the fact that this isn’t who you really are. It’s going to be like watching someone else pilot your body, helpless, unable to do anything while they wreck up the place.
Worst of all, it’s like being mugged even after you’ve show your assailant your empty pockets. “Well listen, man,” you plead, “I’ve given you my motivation, my happiness, my optimism–I even cluttered up my room, just how you like it.” But depression doesn’t care, and it’ll settle for a swift punch to the ribs and a chunk of your self-confidence before offering you a promise of a follow-up visit.
I don’t know what the solution is. For once, I have no sunny-side-up message to tack onto the end of this post. But for some things, the best message is one of perseverance. Because yes, your symptoms might come back. But so will you, stronger every time because even though you might not always believe it, you are stronger than your symptoms. Even when you don’t know it.
Featured photo credit: La robe de chambre de Balzac (Auguste Rodin) by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr (license)
About the Author (Author Profile)The brash speaking voice of a sea-hardened sailor and the softness of a velvet child. Two types of Brown and constantly talking about it. Catch me knitting in the sun and talking about social injustice/horror movie plot holes.
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- A Bigger, Happier Picture - Culture Shock : Culture Shock | October 11, 2016