painting by Elizabeth Castiglione

“Depression,” oil on canvas

I was talking with a woman with whom I had nothing in common.  She wore heels and a sleek suit; I wore Doc Martens and flowery tights.  Then, it emerged she was a salesperson for the pharmaceutical company that makes one of my medications.

“Thank you.  I take that.  It helps me.  I’m glad you’re getting it into the world.”

“That’s what I love about my work.  It’s necessary to many people.”

“There’s still stigma around mental illness.”

“It keeps people from getting better.  A lot of suffering could be alleviated if people got appropriate medical help.”

I shared the challenges of keeping track of all my medications, of not forgetting to take them.

“I know.  I’m on two medications and even though I work for a pharmaceutical company, I still forget to take them.”  Then she said, “but my depression is situational.  I just got divorced and I’ll be off the medication in a few months anyway.”

The conversation ground to a halt, our embryonic sense of mutual trust and commonality destroyed.   She had essentially said, “I’m not one of you mentally ill people.  I’m a normal person who’s just having a hard time.”

Some of us have the mental health equivalent of the common cold. Others have emotional diabetes.  Some have psychological leukemia.  Mental health status exists on a spectrum, varying not just from person to person, but also over time.  Everyone gets a headache sometime.  There is no “us.”  There is no “them.”  We are one.

Elizabeth Castiglione, 484-802-7440,