Trigger Warning: Self Harm
There is an understanding among the depressed community, particularly on tumblr, that a depressed person is a pretty, white, straight, teen girl, who cries a lot, thinks she isn’t pretty, and will be cured of her depression and her need to be sad when a boy comes along and wants to date her. I couldn’t find an individual image to capture this notion, but combined, the two above really do capture this romanticized idea of what mental illness looks like. The first image, which states, “Depression is when you have lots of love, but no one’s taking,” connotes a very narrow cause and implication of depression. This image would have it’s viewers believe that all depression has a single and specific cause–not having anyone to “take” your love–which is simply not true. Not only does this idea gravely underestimate the causes of depression, it frames love in a rather unhealthy context: that love is something to be taken, and that people have some sort of love reservoir. The second image depicts a boy kissing the scarred wrist of someone who is presumably a girl, and holding her hand as he does so. Self harm scars in the part of the depressed community that subscribes to images like this often represent a girl’s “ugliness” and “inability to be loved”, so when an image like this shows up, it is understood with the context of some sort of victory or overcoming of the character flaw that is depression.
Robert McRuer, in the article As Good as it Gets, explains this sort of “cure” as the heterosexual epiphany: a moment in which personal “wholeness” is achieved by a man and woman being together. McRuer also adds that these epiphanies always exist in the context of able-bodiedness; that sense of wholeness and completion comes not only from heterosexuality, but from a lack of or curing of disability or “brokenness”. The heterosexual epiphany then, can be seen very clearly in the internet’s community of depressed individuals. It purports that a girl being in a relationship with a boy is not only the cure for mental illness, but also that people who have mental illnesses cannot be in relationships, and that their illness is why they are unlovable.
The most important thing to understand from this idea of depression, I think, is the immense level of internalized misogyny, ableism, and compulsory heterosexuality. To treat depression like it is a flaw of the individual–be it the person who’s love is not being taken, or the people not taking that love–is to in truth ignore the actual person that is suffering. The misogyny manifests in the way that this widespread notion of depression describes women, particularly young girls. The blatant ableism here shows itself in the idea that people cannot be loved until they are cured of their mental illnesses (especially if they have physical markers like self harm scars). The misogyny and ableism intertwine into what could almost be called a hatred for and dehumanization of young women who have depression. But, all of this is fixed of course with the love of a straight boy! (And if you’re still depressed after he tries to fix you, then you’re really just a hopeless monster.)