This Jezebel post caught my eye the other day. It’s called “Dressing for Depression” and basically suggests ways to put an outfit together when you’re depressed. As you might know, one of the symptoms of depression is that it becomes really, really hard–sometimes practically impossible–to do simple everyday things, such as getting dressed. This post aimed to make it a bit easier while, unfortunately, utilizing ridiculously flippant language to discuss a serious disorder.
When I first read it, I didn’t really know what to think. I try not to get offended at things before I give them some serious thought, so I did. And although I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse the author of ableism (like some commenters did), I think she could’ve been a lot more sensitive with her writing.
First of all, the title. “Dressing for Depression.” Depression is not a social event, or any kind of event at all. It’s a pervasive state of despair, fatigue, and self-loathing. To a person who actually has depression (and not merely the blues), “dressing for depression” means dressing for everyday life.
[Update: Apparently, Jezebel changed the post’s name to “Dressing When You’re Depressed.”]
Second, the way the post begins is this: “Maybe it’s SAD. Maybe it’s clinical. Maybe you’re in a breakup. Or maybe you just have the blues. Whatever the reason, it’s better to wear clothes (trust me).” Saying it this way basically equates SAD, clinical depression, breakups, and the blues. These things are not equal. If the author stuck to breakups and the blues, the rest of the post would be pretty appropriate, but SAD and clinical depression are disorders, not mood states, and as such, they’re not considered part of a healthy, normal life. Breakups and the blues, on the other hand, are a routine part of life for most people and can be overcome without medical treatment.
Later on, the author writes: “Basically, there are two real options: wallowing and rallying.” Actually, if you’re actually clinically depressed, there are two options: wallowing and having someone force you to see a psychiatrist. Suggesting that people with depression can “rally” and “pick themselves up” and “put on a good face” and all that other garbage is so ridiculously belittling and offensive. Depression isn’t simply a disorder that makes you put yourself down; it’s also disorder that prevents you from picking yourself up.
For those who apparently can magically rally themselves despite having a serious illness, the author has this advice: “Go crazy. Think garter belts, and false lashes, or perfume. Yeah, it sounds weird, but sometimes desperate measures are called for! Fake it til you make it — and, as we all know from “The King and I,” you may fool yourself while you’re at it.” Fake it til you make it is what people tell depressives when they find themselves too inconvenienced by the presence of someone with a mental disorder.
Even without the cutesy and belittling language, the post is rather useless. Good clothes, contrary to the author’s suggestion, don’t help most depressives feel better. I would know; I have a closet full of them, and I was depressed for years.
One commenter said it well: “You know how I dressed for depression? In a hospital gown. Way to trivialize a serious illness.”