2 weeks ago, Andy Richter massively informed a Twitter user on the realities of clinical depression. In case you didn’t see it, someone tweeted “Depression is a choice.” They needed to be schooled. Hard. And Andy did that. I’m not going to try to figure out if this person is completely heartless or if they’re just really, really, really ignorant and have NO idea what clinical depression is like (as in they’ve never even seen an after-school special or read a social media post about it).
But this particular Twitter exchange got me thinking about all the advice that’s out there for stress relief, shitty life experiences, and what-have-you, much of which includes the words depression and/or anxiety. It got me thinking about how I use the terms depression and anxiety in my blog posts and on social media.
Sometimes I say stress-related anxiety (or depression) or situational depression (or anxiety), sometimes I just say depression or anxiety. It’s outside the scope of my practice to give mental health advice or even life hacks to someone who has Clinical Depression* or Anxiety Disorder*, so I write for people who don’t have mental health diagnoses of either. I assume that people who need the help of a mental health professional aren’t reading a massage therapist’s blog or social media looking for said help. If someone who’s not a mental health professional is giving advice for people who have Clinical Depression or Anxiety Disorder, someone needs to school them. Hard.
*Note: I’m going to use capitol letters when referring to the clinical version of Depression and Anxiety and lower case letters when dealing your run-of-the-mill situational or stress-related versions.
I always assume that unless the person writing a blog post or article is a mental health professional, when they talk about depression and anxiety they’re talking about the situational depression you get when, say, your romantic partner dumps you, or the situational anxiety we all have during a job interview. Of course I know there are going to be insensitive trolls out there – it’s the internet for pity’s sake, but all the same, maybe I give too many people too much credit.
Most of the criticism online about stress relief and life advice says that it’s nothing but useless platitudes and feel good nonsense. I disagree. As someone who’s never suffered with Clinical Depression or Anxiety Disorder, I’ve benefitted from a lot of these “useless platitudes.” My friends and family members who have Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder… not so much.
The critics say that when you’re Depressed you can’t just think of something happy and snap out of it, and they’re right! But if you are experiencing situational or stress-related depression, reminding yourself of the things you have to be grateful for can be quite useful.
Q: If a piece of advice doesn’t work for you is it worthless to everyone? A: No
Q: Is every piece of advice going to be useful to every single person? A: No
Q: Just because a piece of advice works for one person, should it be shared as general advice? A: Why not? If it works for one person it’s likely that someone else will benefit from it as well.
Q: Should every writer very carefully spell out whether they’re talking about the Clinical Depression vs situational depression, or should we expect some discernment on the part of the reader? A: That’s a very good question. One I don’t have an answer to and is beyond the scope of this article at any rate.
Q: Will it get overwhelmingly tedious to read the CYA phrases “stress-related” and “situational” in regards to depression and anxiety in an article that’s not dealing with the full-blown mental health disorder? A: Probably
I’ve wanted to write about this for a while but thought it would seem either disingenuous or pretentious since I don’t experience the effects of Clinical Depression or Anxiety Disorder myself. Then, this article found its way to my inbox and it backed up what I’d been feeling about this issue. Please read it, it’s written by someone who has Clinical Depression AND Anxiety Disorder. Alternatively, bookmark it or email it to yourself to read later when you have a few extra minutes. It really is important.
No one can write for every population so it’s important to know who the author’s audience is. A mental health professional or someone with first hand experience should be the only people giving advice about Clinical Depression or Anxiety. Someone like a massage therapist or life coach should stick to the various approaches to stress and other common life problems that cause situational mood problems.
“You can’t just calm down, but you can practice.”
No one piece of advice will work for everyone… that’s why there’s so many of them.