Rant: Depression Shaming

This week, I felt ashamed of my depression symptoms.

This is not necessarily a rare occurrence, especially since my symptoms occur so frequently and have for so long. But this week, the “shame storm” (as Brene Brown says) was incredibly strong.

Not surprisingly, these feelings of shame were triggered by outside stimuli.

I’d like to share these experiences and thoughts with you. Hopefully, you won’t be that friend, teacher, mom, or acquaintance that unfeelingly says or posts something potentially hurtful. Hopefully you’ll be aware of the implications of your words, and of your unspoken (but very felt) judgments.

My first experience with shame came from a post on pinterest. It’s linked below:

You did not wake up today to be mediocre #mediocre:

Yes, it’s all very tough-love, tough-as-nails, cliche motivation. At first glance, you might think it’s just a typical pin and move forward.

Today, this pin stopped me in my tracks.

My head screamed “Well at LEAST I woke up!!”

And therein lies the problem.

When waking up and getting out of bed is a huge struggle, the last thing you need is even more pressure.

If I wake up on time, I deserve a party… not a judging admonition.

This is part of what is so hard about depression, and part of what’s hard about simply being a human in our society.

We are mean to ourselves. We beat ourselves up. We motivate ourselves with self-imposed torture, and we’re told that yelling at ourselves is normal. This pin is just one little symptom of the self-hatred epidemic that is pervasive in our world.

Instead of this pin, I want to see cheerful messages saying “Good job for waking up today!” and “You woke up– now you can do anything!”

Not because I’m weak, or sentimental, or naively unrealistic.

On the contrary, these messages are as realistic as it gets for me. I need encouragement, love, and light. I do not need to scroll through my pinterest feed and feel ashamed about whether or not I got up that morning.

If you know someone with depression, you surely won’t say things like this to their faces. But do try to be careful about what rhetoric drives your speech. Judging someone (or vocally judging yourself) for little failures like “waking up mediocre” can really discourage someone for whom everything is a battle.

This week, I also experienced something incredibly rare.

I was shamed by a teacher.

Yes, you read that right. Mandi Sadler, perfect student, was shamed by a teacher in front of the class.

I had missed class earlier in the week, which never happens, and I walked into the room the next day to this:

“Why HELLO Mandi. We MISSED you on Tuesday…” Pointed, judging stare included.

I sputtered and didn’t even make an excuse. I just said I was sorry and sat down… but I was positively fuming for the entire class period. And most of the week afterward.

She didn’t know that that was the one day that I couldn’t force myself out of bed. That that Tuesday was absolutely miserable for me, that I felt so stuck, and that I had already spent countless hours beating myself up for not attending that class.

How could she know that the one day I skipped class, it was because I was too depressed to leave my bed?

How could she know that that’s the only day I can remember where I actually gave up, where I actually failed to get myself moving?

How could she know that Tuesday was a huge personal discouragement, and that I desperately wanted to forget that it had happened?

She couldn’t.

The point is, she shamed me for missing class ONE TIME, and she was completely insensitive about it.

A good teacher would have known that a comment like that might hurt a student like me: a “perfect,” “straight-A” student who never misses class and turns in impeccable work.

A considerate person would have never mentioned the incident (as we ARE adults, after all…), or would have taken me privately aside after class to ask if I was alright.

Thankfully I had recovered from my episode by that class. I was fine. I was fine enough to be livid at her behavior.

Please, please, please do not be that teacher.

Do not shame your students– for any reason, at any time. You have no earthly idea what they’re going through. Judging them publicly may only cause even more pain.

I am thankful for my strength, and for the brevity of this episode. I am thankful that I rebounded quickly and that I wasn’t hurt by the embarrassing moment in class.

Remember– little things mean a lot. Not just to people with depression, but to every individual that might be going through something.

Tread lightly, and treat others with compassion… especially if you don’t know their story!

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ― Plato


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