#DiverseBookbloggersDiscuss: When Depression rep does more harm than good

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Hello guys !

CW: Depression, self-harm

Depression sucks.

I think everyone who has ever suffered from it will agree with me here. Depression really, really sucks. In fact, all mental illnesses suck but as someone who deals with depression, I’m especially familiar with it and the representation it receives in media.
And to be honest, I rather hate it.

For the longest time in the world, I struggled to accept that I needed to seek help; that I was probably depressed and needed medication and to talk to someone. And the main reason for that? Because I didn’t think I was depressed because I didn’t look like your typical “depressed girl” from the novels that I had read.
I never realised that depression — that all mental illnesses — manifested themselves in a million different ways with each person. No-one has the exact same experiences with mental illnesses and I think that is something we need to explore much more in fiction — especially in Young Adult fiction where mental illnesses often go unnoticed or untreated for this very reason. Because they believe that they’re not “bad” enough to have depression.

I mean, we all know your typical mental illness novel right: manic-pixie-dream-girl who meets a guy who kisses her self-harm scars and cures her. It’s just not realistic at all. But it’s always the “pretty” side of depression that is shown in novels. It’s glamourising self harm and acting as if depression is just being a little sadder than normal. That’s the only way you can be depressed — if you cut yourself.

Never have I self-harmed (well, not in the actively self-harming way that most people assume. I do smaller forms such as picking my cuticles and such and I’m working on it) and that was one of the sole reasons I fought the idea that I was depressed. Depression = self-harm, from all my previous experiences with representation in media.
And it wasn’t until I had been diagnosed and came to terms with my illness that I realised just how shit this is. Depression isn’t pretty. It isn’t faint scars that someone will kiss. It isn’t just sadness until such a time that you find someone to take your mind off.

It’s not showering or brushing your teeth for weeks because you just don’t have the energy to. It’s not eating or just eating trash until your body forces you to do better because preparing food takes too much effort. It’s losing friends because you can’t keep up conversations or you’re always cancelling plans. It’s staying in your pyjamas for days on end. It’s losing the enjoyment of simple things like reading or watching TV.

Depression sucks.

And I want to see more of it in fiction. I want to see characters fight this horrible disease and sometimes not win their daily fight. Or weekly fight, because hey, I’ve been there. I want on page medication and therapy and relapses. I want characters to fuck up and fall down and struggle to get back up again. I’m sick fed up of depression automatically being associated with self-harm as if that’s the only symptom there is. And as if cutting is the only form of self-harm (which is another rant altogether for me, haha.)

But I want more realistic portrayals of mental illness so that people like myself, won’t end up in an unsafe situation because they keep insisting they don’t suffer because their symptoms are never shown.
Give me the ugly side of mental illness. The subtle side of mental illness. Give me the realistic portrayals so that kids don’t suffer in silence because they haven’t gotten to the extremes yet.


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Writer & Book blogger @ CAH Writes

Charlotte Anne Hamilton is a twenty-two year-old Scottish author with two fur-children. She is an avid reader and gamer, as well as a dabbler of art. When not writing like she’s running out of time, she can be found listening to music which inspires more stories.

Noteable posts:

Diverse Book Bloggers Discuss is a way to boost diverse bloggers who are brilliant and have a lot to say but have smaller platforms and don’t really get as much reach as they deserve. What this is, is basically a guest post feature where twice a month diverse book bloggers will discuss things they are passionate about on my blog. 

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15 thoughts on “#DiverseBookbloggersDiscuss: When Depression rep does more harm than good

  1. Thank you Charlotte and Fadwa, for this post. I have had my own struggles with mental illness mostly OCD and a rather frighting side effect of the meds which sent my health on a scary path for a short time, but I am better now. I agree, there should be better rep. of depression and other mental illness. It is not all extremes, though at its worst it can go to them. Getting better has its ups and downs, good days and bad days. How mental health is talked about in the media does influence if a person will tell anyone about how they are really feeling. I can speak from experience on that one. So HOW this topic is treated is important.

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  2. YES YES AND YES TO THIS. During my first period of depression, I was the typical depressed girl you see in movies and books, so it was kinda easy to say: yes, I’m depressed. But during the second one, I wasn’t like that at all. I thought I was okay until I wasn’t and it was hard to accept. And maybe it would have been easier to identify if it wasn’t for stereotypes.
    Thank you so much for this great post ❤❤

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  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I relate all too well for this. It didn’t help that at the worst of my depression, I had an emotionally abusive friendship with someone who basically spouted the same harmful ideas: that I couldn’t be depressed because I wasn’t cutting myself and I hadn’t attempted suicide. I started dealing with depression when I was eleven years old and it wasn’t until a month ago that I finally got medication and I’m still waiting to see a therapist for it – and I’m 22. So yeah, we *really* need better and more accurate and diverse representation of mental illnesses in general and depression specifically in books because it will absolutely help people who need it.

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  4. Actually, woah, you are so right! I know so perfectly well what you mean when you say “I must not be depressed because I’m not bad enough”. And I also know the feeling of wanting to actually ‘properly’ hurt myself so ‘it would count’ and I wouldn’t just be ‘a sad pathetic thing not even good enough to be depressed’ (I know right??) You are so right about this. Bookmarking and sharing at the end of the week on my wrap up. Thanks for blogging this.

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  5. Thank you Charlotte for writing this post and Fadwa for sharing! I agree so much with what you said, I’ve had/have depression and when I see about it in books usually the characters suddenly get better. Their fixed and everything’s fine say for example when they meet a new lover! And I’m sat here mentally screaming ‘what?!’ Because how? My depression and anxiety keeps me inside a lot other than forcing myself into work and university. I wonder how they meet someone and get transformed and I have to remind myself it’s fiction.

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  6. I know this feeling. I thought hey, I’m sure everyone else has it just as bad or worse than me. I thought that till I got to an extreme. At the same time a lot of the kids in my school at the time thought it might be cool to self harm- or pretend to- as a dare. They stopped again and moved on to another fad. Unfortunately though that was what was taken notice of. Not somebody looking as normal as possible and quietly telling the truth….

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