A friend of mine brought something to my attention that blew my mind a little bit; Vogue (yes, the Vogue) had an article in their April issue about antidepressants.
Honestly, as a former student of fashion, I never really spent much time reading the articles in magazines like Vogue, only really skimming the pages for inspiration. Something about this idea set me aback a little bit; Vogue addressing mental health in some way? It seems out of sorts, like Playboy letting ladies know where to find fashionable shoes or Dog Fancy having an article about the best places around to grab a pint of beer.
Yet, I found myself clapping giddily and (maybe) jumping up and down a little bit. This is something I consider entirely unexpected, and without even reading the article I heralded it as a great step in the right direction for addressing the concept of mental illness in our community. Just the fact that this article exists feels (to me) like the edges of our “taboo topic” ice-cube are slowly beginning to melt away.
And then I read the actual article.
At first, I was honestly a little mortified.
Daphne Merkin, author of April Vogue’s article “Jagged Little Pills” addresses some of the social issues around the idea of taking medications and how the notion of depression as a disorder or “disease”, from her point of view, has directed (or rather not-directed in some instances) her acceptance of the situation.
Merkin, having a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and three decades of experience wrestling with the age old question of “should I, or shouldn’t I” when it comes to taking medications, outlines her own wariness of taking said drugs in a meandering, sort of engorged-vocabulary, sprawling, New Yorker style article.
Personally, I find little in common with both the voice and thoughts of the “upper middle class New Yorker”, and was more than slightly disturbed by her suggestion that someone being treated for depression would have a much more difficult time deciding to take antidepressants than someone who has schizophrenia taking medication.
I think I can safely say that many people, no matter how serious their diagnosis, have trouble with the idea of taking medication. I think that anyone who suggests that people with just depression are in a more difficult position when it comes to compliance because they are more likely to get away with being unmedicated or “faking it” may not have experienced the depression I’ve experienced, or may not (after 30 years) fully embrace the idea of depression in the first place.
The author fully admits to the latter in her closing.
Honestly, there were several things I disagreed with in the article, but my agreement, with any part, is irrelevant.
“I have often wondered whether it is depression’s very elusiveness that brings out the particsan in people, leading them to diehard positions, to swear for or against it as a real disease, for or against medication.” (P. 142)
-“Jagged Little Pills” Vogue, April 2012
This line in her closing is absolutely true. And her final admittance of her belief that antidepressants have helped improve her life is a bold one.
What brought me back full-circle on this article is that it is a woman’s story, from her own point of view, largely about her own experiences. She fully admits she doesn’t understand many things about her diagnosis or about medications or what they do to people, and skirts around many of the issues people have with the idea or treatment of mental illness without creating an enormous debate.
“It is painfully clear to me that there will always be doubters and disbelievers, but they are not familiar with the evil forces of Planet Depression.” (P. 142)
Whether I agree with someone’s stance, or their story, or not, I agree with the fact that it is being put out there. We need it to be put out there, because the more prevalent this sort of open sharing is, the less isolated those of us with mental illness become.
And I think that the fact that this sharing is happening in magazines as large as Vogue is an amazing thing and as big a sign as any (that I’ve seen) that things are changing.
Public libraries often cary recent issues of magazines, if you are interested in reading the full article you can probably find it there! April Vogue, 2012.