Tag Archives: stigma

It’s About Them, Not You

Yesterday I came across this tweet:

It was Patton’s response to this tweet:

Which let me to retweet it with this:

People still get it wrong. They still equate sadness with depression when they are nothing alike. I know some people use the words as if they are interchangeable but they are not. They can coexist but they are still different. I’ve been sad. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve lost loved ones and friends to suicide. When you take the viewpoint of Andrew Tate, his words in the quoted tweet and all that follow in his thread are words that drive people to hide and not share their pain. They are a harsh judgment that everything experienced is a choice and they have full control over it. So when you break it down, what is really being said is, you have no one to blame but yourself. Looking specifically at “you will always be depressed if your life is depressing” misses the mark by a mile and shows he has no clue what depression really is or that people who seem to have it all struggle with depression. I still remember when Jared Padalecki (Supernatural, Gilmore Girls) publicly announced that he has Depression, someone actually told him he has nothing to be depressed about.

One of my professors described it as a verb, as it’s not an actual state but of getting to that state, that we aren’t depressed, we are depressing. Experiencing it myself and working with clients with Depression, I think it’s a combination of depressing and the state of being depressed and it looks just a little different for everyone. Depression often comes with intense emotional and physical pain that becomes the center of daily living. In some cases, it can be managed with medication and therapy.

But there are barriers. The stigma of mental illness that keeps people from seeking help even if they know they need it. If they know people close to them don’t agree with medication and/or therapy, they will avoid treatment to avoid the judgment from those who should be supporting them. Unhelpful advice that treats depression and other mental illnesses as if they are just feelings, blips on the radar that you can get rid of easily.

The following is an excerpt from The Downward Spiral of things people say to someone who is depressed and potentially suicidal:

Push through it. It’s just stress. Just think positive thoughts and you’ll be better. Have you tried to exercise more? Maybe you need to sleep more. You need to eat more. The pharmaceutical companies and doctors just want your money. Your life could be worse. Maybe you need a real job where you socialize with co-workers every day. Yeah, I get depressed too, then I call my best friend and I’m fine. It’s all in your head. You’re being selfish. (page 22-23)

What they really need is unconditional support from their family and friends. They need to know if they express their pain that they will not be met with judgment, minimizing/gaslighting/manipulation of their situation, and advice. Often the things that are said are things that make the person trying (and failing) to provide comfort feel comfortable. We shouldn’t feel comfortable and we should never make someone else’s situation about ourselves because it isn’t. They are the ones in pain. They are the ones needing help. They are the ones that need comfort.

Here are some more helpful things to say:

  1. Instead of “Push through it,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  2. Instead of “It’s just stress,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  3. Instead of “Just think positive thoughts and you’ll be better,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  4. Instead of “Have you tried to exercise more,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  5. Instead of “Maybe you need to sleep more,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  6. Instead of “The pharmaceutical companies and doctors just want your money,” I’m here for you.
  7. Instead of “Your life could be worse,” I’m here for you.

See where I’m going with this? The primary need is knowing they can count on the people they trust, that they will be supported no matter what. Ask them what they need, they may not know and that’s okay, reiterate that you support them.

Things you can do to help (not a comprehensive list):

  1. Offer to take them to an appointment if they don’t have transportation or if they are signaling that they are hesitant and aren’t sure about going. This relates directly back to unconditional support. If they know you support them and are willing to be with them (you won’t be allowed in the session) will increase the chances of them following through.
  2. If you’ve asked them what they need previously, circle back and ask again at a later date. They might know. And if all they answer with is, a fuzzy blanket to wrap themselves in, that’s okay because that really may be all they need. Sometimes sensory/tactile stimuli can help manage triggers.
  3. Offer to socialize with them one-on-one if they don’t want to socialize in groups or out in public.
  4. If you know they have a crisis plan, ask if they will share it with you so you can help if/when necessary.
  5. Check out what your local/state suicide prevention services are. If there are none or they don’t seem adequate, advocate with your lawmakers to create/improve them. Same with access to mental health services—access here means not only accessible through insurance but within a reasonable distance and appropriate transportation, because not everyone has services available nearby nor the transportation to get there and medical transportation options are sometimes restrictive.
  6. Counter stigma where you come across it, whether it’s something someone else says that they try to pass off as a joke, something said out of ignorance, uses depressed when they mean sad, etc. Staying silent when you have the opportunity to challenge falsehoods only allows stigmas to continue.

One last thing you need to understand if you’ve never personally dealt with depression and suicide is that no matter how much unconditional support you give, no matter how much you help, your loved one may still choose to end their own life and it has nothing to do with what you did or didn’t do.

It has everything to do with their pain and suffering.

Depression & Suicide Resources

Giving you resources up front to use for yourself or to help a loved one.




Posted by on September 10, 2017 in Uncategorized


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The Downward Spiral: Chapter One


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The blank canvas taunted him, chided him. Whatever you do to me will amount to nothing. You can paint whatever you want, no one will want me. I’ll sit in the corner of this studio collecting dust until you paint over worthless little ol’ me.

He shut his eyes, listening to Seether—willing the music to drown out the negativity. He pursed his lips, raising his hand to strike.

You’re no artist. You’re a waste of oxygen.

He slashed the brush across the canvas and then diagonally upward, putting his whole body into it like a taiko drummer. He continued the wild strokes until the brush emptied of color. After dropping the brush in the black jar on the table next to him, he pulled one out of a jar of crimson paint. He attacked the canvas again.

Stepping back, he surveyed his work. A fucking trainwreck.

He threw the brush at the canvas in frustration, it hit with a dull thud. The brush fell to the floor as he dropped into his chair, spent physically and emotionally.


Kyra tossed her keys on the table in the entry, dumped her briefcase underneath, and thumbed through the mail. The house was quiet, absent the usual rock music playing and aromas of food cooking in the kitchen.

“Ky! I’m home!” she called upstairs. Her twin brother didn’t answer.

She kicked off her black patent leather pumps and climbed the stairs, entering the first room on her right. Three of the walls were set with large windows, allowing natural light to flood the room during the day.

Kyle was slumped in a chair, arms hanging at his side with a glass of red wine in his hand. His short burnt sienna hair was messy and his jeans and white t-shirt were spattered with paint. An easel with a large canvas, full of angry, dark brush strokes was in front of him.

“Hey, Ky,” Kyra said, leaning against the doorjamb with her arms over her chest.

He startled in his seat, almost spilling his wine, and then glanced at her. “Hey, Kyr. I didn’t hear you.”

“What’s up with that?” She gestured to the canvas with her chin. “It looks like roadkill.”

“Elisha broke up with me again.” He took a sip of wine.

“What was it this time?” She’d lost count of how many times Elisha broke up with him, and couldn’t keep track of the myriad reasons she gave when she did so.

“I don’t pay enough attention to her.”

“You don’t pay enough attention to me either,” she joked, smiling. “Maybe I should breakup with you too.”

“You couldn’t if you tried.” He chuckled. “We share too much DNA.”

“Lucky for you.” She paused with a slight smile. “I’m guessing you didn’t cook dinner.”


“Order some Chinese while I change and pay the bills.”

“What do you want?”

“Shrimp with snow peas. And pour me a glass,” she said, nodding at the wine. “No reason for you to be drinking alone.”

“You bet.” He grabbed the phone off the table next to him.

Kyra returned downstairs to the master bedroom, stripping out of her black pencil skirt and ivory blouse. She donned a pair of black yoga pants and a lavender tunic sweater—it was almost spring in San Diego and she got chilly at night—then pulled her hair into a ponytail. She sat at the desk in her office as her twin brought her a glass of Tempranillo.

They sat on the floor in front of the coffee table with their white takeout boxes and glasses of wine, watching a rerun of Game of Thrones. Kyle slouched and peered into his box of Beef Broccoli while Kyra picked out a snow pea pod with chopsticks from her box.

“Are you going to try to get her back?” she asked.

“I’m done with women.”

She laughed. “If I had a dollar for every time you said that.”

“I’m serious, Kyr. I’m tired of relationship drama. I’m going to focus on my art.”

She chewed her food, pondering his declaration. She had never been fond of Elisha, but she never voiced that to Kyle. He needed a supportive sister, not another person to question his choices. She wouldn’t argue with him focusing on his art though. Anything to keep him out of the clutches of his ex.

“How was your day?” he asked.

“The usual fun day of contracts and meetings.” She winked at him. She was a lawyer for a tech company, focusing on their contracts. She didn’t do litigation—it wasn’t her thing. Not every lawyer belonged in a courtroom. She preferred writing and pouring over legalese. Analyzing suited her.

He cracked a smile and snickered. “Want to go to the museum with me this weekend? They have a Picasso exhibit for a few weeks I want to see.”

“Sure.” She settled against the sofa, cradling the wine glass in her hand with the stem between her middle and ring fingers.

Kyle lifted his glass, stopping before taking a drink. “Do you think I’ll meet someone else?”

“Only if you don’t hide in your studio.” She sipped the Tempranillo, pressing her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

He refilled his glass and then hers. They sat in comfortable silence, nursing the wine and watching Tyrion’s trial.

Kyle let out a deep sigh and poured another glass, emptying the bottle. “Do you want more?” he asked Kyra. “I can open another bottle.”


She watched him stroll to the wine rack in the dining room. She knew he would be moody. After the other breakups, he hid in the studio most of his waking hours and then drank himself to sleep when he was done. This would be no different.

Being each other’s twin for the last thirty years was never easy. Where Kyle was emotional and given to temperamental outbursts, Kyra was rational and thought everything through before acting. Maybe it was what made him a good artist and her a good lawyer.

But others expected them to be the same, and that would never happen.


Kyle gazed at his twin as she sipped her wine. They looked enough alike that if someone was paying attention, they’d notice the familial resemblance in the shape of their oval faces and long noses. But no one ever guessed they were twins because they noticed the differences first—her darker hair and her light hazel eyes compared to his light brown eyes.

He slid his arm around her, resting his head on hers.

How can I have a relationship while working on my art? Will other women feel the same as Elisha about me and my work? Or will they be more respectful of my time and process?

His ex didn’t like his intense focus when he was into his work. It’s not that he forgot about her, it’s that he was driven to see his vision take form. Once the idea was in his head he had to get it on canvas, otherwise he ruminated over it.

Ruminating led to madness.

© 2016 Debi V. Smith, LLC

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Posted by on September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


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The Downward Spiral Playlist


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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, music is important to me. It’s part of my soul and I don’t know what I would do without it. My mother was never able to get me to study without it…because advice back then was for students to have a quiet, uninterrupted study area for homework. There are times I like quiet, but study time back then and writing time now has to be accompanied by music – it helps me focus.

The playlist I started for The Downward Spiral was originally over thirteen hours. That’s how I always start playlists, with more than fits. Through feeling whether or not the music I chose really fit the story, I whittled it down to seven hours and fourteen minutes.

Like Family Ties, each song has a place in the storyline and flows from beginning to end like the story does. Enjoy!

Synopsis: Kyle Morgan is an artist, driven by emotion, living with his twin sister, Kyra, driven by reason. He was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder when they were sixteen and tried to commit suicide multiple times since then–the last time, a year before he moved in with Kyra. Stressors pile up on Kyle: his girlfriend breaks up with him again, his twin micro-manages his life, and his parents and older sister continue to deny he has a mental illness. When Kyra finds Kyle after another suicide attempt, she becomes more controlling out of fear of losing him.

Kyle turns the tables and pushes his twin into a relationship with Finn O’Brien, a man he thinks is perfect for her, while he seeks a delicate balance for his own life. Through Finn, Kyra finds a man who isn’t out to use her or keeps one foot out the door. As Kyle settles into life with less interference, he finds love with a witty single mother, Gloria Ramos.

Kyle makes an effort to live in a world that does not understand him while Kyra learns to set aside her fears to focus on herself. When disaster strikes, his stressors return in full force, but Kyra steps back despite her desire to protect her brother. It’s up to Kyle to choose whether to succumb to his internal demons or to live with the constant pain, determining the fate of both of their lives.

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Posted by on September 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


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