Alright collegiettes, this is a topic I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while now: depression memes. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a rise in jokes on my social media timelines that poke fun at depressive symptoms. In case you’re not sure what exactly I’m talking about, here’s an example: Image via Facebook
Before we delve deeper into this topic, I have two confessions to make: 1. I have depression and 2. I find these type of memes really funny, but I’ve also come to realize how problematic they can be.
About a year ago, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I had been struggling for a while; I was taking difficult classes, was stressed out all the time, couldn’t sleep for the life of me, cried nearly every day, lost weight, etc. But the thing was, that even with all these terrible things sucking the life out of me, I didn’t believe that I had the right to call myself depressed. In my mind, in order to be “depressed,” you had to have a real reason to be. As if it was some sort of badge of honor you earn after the sufficient amount of suffering has been paid.
And that felt awful.
I eventually came to realize that a great deal of my denial stemmed from the increasingly blurred lines between what are normal behaviors and attitudes in young adults and what aren’t. We constantly make jokes about the broke, overworked, and stressed out college student that’s ready to jump in front of a high-speed car to get out of a midterm. We see memes all the time that poke fun at failing five classes when you’re only taking three. Although these are funny — and may be a good means to cope with the stress and complexities that come paired with college life — these types of viral jokes can also be very harmful.Image via Facebook
I’d see these memes flooding my Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts and I’d laugh. It would make me feel better, if only for a moment. I’d think: Other people know what I’m going through. This is good. Then, I would put off making a CAPS appointment because I’d be convinced by the memes that popped up as I scrolled through my Twitter timeline that This is normal. This is what everyone this age goes through.
But sometimes it isn’t.
The idea that you have to suffer through your college years is so normalized now that it’s essentially become a rite of passage into successful American Adulthood(TM). If you didn’t go through that true college struggle, you didn’t have an authentic college experience. If you didn’t feel like you were constantly drowning, you weren’t doing enough. How messed up is that?
Meme culture (if you can even call it that) has normalized these ideas even further. It’s also served to make already complicated mental illnesses even more difficult to try to navigate. If we think that everyone else is having the same experiences as us, how likely are we really to take it as a serious problem?Image via Facebook
As for me, I am learning that even though the condition of depression itself may not be completely “normal,” the thoughts and emotions that come out of it are valid. But if you’re struggling, don’t rely solely on internet jokes to make you feel like you are going to be okay. Make a CAPS appointment. Talk to someone.