You’ll learn as we go along that my TV tastes hover mostly in the world of dramatic (some might say “trashy”) reality or true crime. This week, my real life collided with what I was watching play out on Vanderpump Rules.
For those not familiar, Vanderpump Rules (or “Pump Rules” as it’s better known in the hashtag realm of Twitter) is a reality show on Bravo. It’s centered around a group of friends who work for restaurateur and philanthropist Lisa Vanderpump. They work primarily at SUR, but since the inception of the show she and her husband Ken Todd have created other venues included on the show, such as Pump and TomTom.
Over the past eight seasons we’ve witnessed the dramatic relationships between the cast including cheating scandals, birthday meltdowns, couplings and conscious uncouplings, and a veritable river of alcohol flowing throughout. Up until now my viewing has been from entirely voyeuristic perspective into lives I found completely dissimilar, albeit entertaining, to my own.
That changed this week when Ariana Madix discussed her history of depression with Lisa Vanderpump. As Ariana spoke of her experiences, her words resonated with every core of my being. Despite not always being a fan of hers, I discovered a new kinship and was happy to see the real life struggle being tackled on what had previously been a fairly innocuous platform.
The next morning I signed on to Twitter with the excitement of a child blessed with a snow day, anxious to capitalize on the moment and to continue a much needed dialogue. Imagine my surprise and dejection when the first tweets I stumbled across were ones mocking Ariana’s experience or dismissing it as fake. I was gutted.
Twitter can be cruel in general, with the ability to say pretty much whatever you want without consequence whether it’s fact-based or not. This seemed especially cruel to me, likely because my brain translated it into a personal attack.
When I received my diagnosis I was advised by my doctor to share it with everyone in my world. He told me that too many stay silent because of the stigma of mental illness. I took his advice and was flabbergasted by some of the responses I received by people I loved, who I knew loved me in return. They varied from “That can’t be right, you’re one of the happiest people I know,” to “you just need more sleep.” It was then that I became aware of how truly misunderstood depression is.
My first responses to the tweets of the arm chair psychologists were outrage and a renewed sense of shame. Those quickly fell by the wayside and I chose instead to focus my energy on educating those who lack the experience to know of what they speak.
When people who haven’t experienced it hear the word, they almost immediately associate it with sadness or the inability to be happy. It does manifest as sadness with some, but it can also display itself as irritability, a tendency to withdraw, anxiety, sleeping too much or too little, and even physical aches and pains. Increases or decreases in appetite and energy are also manifestations.
Most doctors will start you on some form of SSRI medication that increases seratonin levels which in turn increases the transmission of messages between neurons. SSRIs don’t work for everyone, however, and there’s no concrete evidence to show how or why the imbalance occurs. Basically it’s a trial and error method of treatment that can take several tries to be effective for some.
I’m not an M.D., I’m a housewife and run of the mill human who is learning to deal with my new normal. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, don’t take my word for it…consult a professional. There is hope to be had and the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t have to be an oncoming train.