“When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.
Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.
Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.
Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in the bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.
Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.
Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty-foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too.
The thing is, when it snows all the time, you get worn all the way down. You get tired of being cold. You get tired of hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on the light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on the heavy days. You resent the hell out of the snow, but it doesn’t care, it’s just blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the whole world.
Also, the snow builds up in other areas, places you can’t shovel sometimes places you can’t even see. Maybe it’s on the roof. Maybe it’s on the mountain behind the house. Sometimes, there’s an avalanche that blows the house right off its foundation and takes you with it. A veritable Act of God, nothing can be done. The neighbors say it’s a shame and they can’t understand it; he was doing so well with his shoveling.”
This was an explanation of depression shared anonymously on a Reddit thread and went viral. I’m sharing because mental health issues are still taboo in our first-world country and my wish is society as a whole would be more welcoming to those struggling with this ‘invisible’ disease.
Every year the foundation I work for hosts an annual fundraiser called Fight Night and splits half of the night’s net proceeds with another local at-risk children’s charity. This year we’re partnering with CHOC Children’s and its pediatric mental health initiative.
Here are some facts based on CHOC Children’s research:
- Half of the children who struggle with a lifetime mental illness had symptoms before age 14 but received no help.
- Only about 1/3 of children with mental health problems today receive any treatment.
- Children with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes are 2-5 times more likely than their healthier peers to have mental health problems.
- Stigma, denial, and lack of access to care are barriers to healing.
- The earlier a child receives high-quality, evidence-based care, while the brain is rapidly developing, the greater the possibility of a positive outcome.
- Effective treatment in partnership with the family can change the trajectory of a life.
- Suicide is the second highest cause of death with young people between the ages 10 – 24.
Clinical depression  is a “whole-body” illness that affects your mood, thoughts, body, and behavior. Many factors can contribute to clinical depression, including cognitive issues (e.g., negative thinking patterns); biological and genetic factors; gender (it affects more women than men); other medications; other illnesses; and situational factors.
For some, a number of these factors seem to be involved, while for others a single factor can cause the illness. Often, people become depressed for no apparent reason. In an effort to cope with the emotional pain caused by depression, some people try to “self-medicate” through the abuse of alcohol or illegal drugs, which only leads to more problems.
I was also made aware African Americans are even more less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues. The following  statements reflect some common misconceptions about African Americans and depression: “Why are you depressed? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything.” “When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable.” “You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger/psychiatrist.”
The truth is that getting help is a sign of strength. People with depression can’t just “snap out of it.” Also, spiritual support can be an important part of healing, but the care of a qualified mental health professional is essential. And the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be.
So…stop the stigma. Talk about it. Mental health matters. We need each other.