Nicole Arbour: A controversial commentary on depression

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Page last updated: 24/10/2022

Nicole Arbour: A controversial commentary on depression

In this blog we will discuss Nicole Arbour and her advice on coping with depression. 

Nicole Arbour: A controversial commentary on depression

Nicole Arbour is a Canadian comedian who has posted a very controversial video about coping with depression. 

Now, this is not her only controversial video. She is best known for her videos on YouTube, particularly her awful fat-shaming video titled “Dear Fat People” for which she has been highly criticised. 

While Arbour has had a very controversial online presence, her life is nothing short of remarkable. The comedian has lived with chronic pain after getting into a car accident, due to which she had become depressed and suicidal at one point in her life. 

In her video about depression she details her own struggle with depression with comical examples and euphemisms stating:

“It’s almost like when you stub your toe, and you’re like holy fuck that’s the most pain I’ve ever been in ever, is this ever going to stop? But then it doesn’t, I spent the next eight years trying to pretend that I was OK.”

In this particular video titled “How I Went From Disabled and Suicidal to Internet Sensation.” She goes on to give some advice to her followers about dealing with her depression and basically how she  “decided” to turn her life around. 

In brief, the steps she took included:

  • Reading and educating herself about her condition by getting herself informed through self help books.
  • Positive self talk that she wrote on sticky notes and put around her house. 
  • Mindful media consumption by cutting out media that made her feel negative like social media as well as horror movies etc. 
  • A philosophy of unconditional positive regard for herself by constantly reminding herself of her own value and growth.  

Her video garnered mixed responses where some people said that she was downplaying depression and that her advice was very surface level ideas and that it was making light of depression. 

However, one has to understand that her own struggle with depression was her own to deal with and in her video she talks about how she dealt with it. 

Sarah Schuster for The Mighty notes that:

“Her story is her story, and we have to stop pretending that every “inspiring” story is a rule. We have to stop using our successes to tell people how to live their lives or pretend everything that worked for us will work for other people.”

While this particula video by Arbour has been positive and encouraging, the problem came with the next video on depression that the comedian posted titled “Why depression is all in your head” which is the exact opposite of what Schuster is pushing across in her statement. 

In this particular vlog that Arbour has gone under fire for, she makes generalised statements and purposely inflammatory language to teach others the “truth” about recovery from depression. 

The problem here is that how she recovered from depression is her truth but it is not the same for others. While much of her statements are not exactly wrong, for example:

“Only one person can get you out of depression, and that is you,” she says. “It’s all in your head. Oh no, I’m holding you accountable for your own feelings, and for your own life.”

By her opinion that “depression is a choice,” she undoes much of what depression or living with depression is actually like. 

Nicole Arbour: A controversial commentary on depression

In this particular video, she gives four contradictory steps to basically “curing” yourself from depression:

  • Keep it real.
  • Develop positive habits.
  • Find something to be excited about. 
  • Make the decision that you are no longer depressed.

Now, the first three habits of living authentically, developing positive habits, and engaging in positive experiences are actually backed by science to be helpful in one’s therapeutic journey to recovering from depression. 

However, her last advice of making a decision to suddenly not have depression does go against much of what we know about depression based on research. 

Much of the statements she makes in her video are generalisations and are not all that well researched. It appears to be that Arbour has been misinformed or that she is choosing to inform her audience about depression based on her own experience. 

While it is uplifting to know that depression as a topic is being widely and openly discussed, however when it is done without mindful attention of what is being shared it can be dangerous.

What is depression?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a leading publication used for diagnosis of mental disorders by mental health professionals, Major depressive disorder or depression is a serious mood disorder.

Depression is marked by the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts. 

Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives. 

People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.

This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts. 

While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death. 

How to cope and manage if you have depression?

Here are a few things you can do to cope with depression:

Seek professional help

If you have not been diagnosed, do not stick to self diagnosis based on your symptoms. Seek out professional consultations starting with your GP who can refer you to specialists in the field. 

There may be different medications- some which might work for you while others that might not help you. 

Taking time to find a doctor who can help you with estimating the right dosage of medication and the right medical treatment can make the quality of your journey to recovery drastically different. 

Reduce stress

If it’s a job that is causing you immense stress, maybe it is time to consider taking a leave of absence. Or it could be your own family environment that is causing your symptoms to flare up- consider moving out if your financial situation persists. 

The intent here is to reduce or remove the things in your life that add stress. If it is a certain relationship, taking the time to set boundaries or communicate that you are taking time out can be one way. 

By reducing stressors, the thought of waking up and facing your day may seem a little less daunting, you might even look forward to it. 

Learn and apply coping skills

If you are depressed, you can learn coping skills and techniques and apply them at least once a day when experiencing depression. 

This can be learning how to tackle your anxieties and negative moods by regulating your breathing and engaging in deep breathing techniques. 

You can also try grounding techniques to help you cope with spiralling down a negative rumination. Make goals for each day and let your goals be small, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound, 

Make plans for your day that suit your pace- if today is especially difficult, make a step by step plan from your bed to the bathroom in the mornings. Reward yourself when you succeed and be kind when you slip up. Remind yourself that you are learning. 

Exercise

Engaging in exercise, even if it is only a 15 minute stretch can be a wonderful step towards loving yourself and caring for yourself. 

You can opt for joining the gym however, if this is too much you can consider yoga or pilates that you can start gradually; you can also go for walks or runs alone or with your loved ones. 

Getting out of your house and doing something that allows you to get your blood pumping in itself can be a great way of self care. 

Eat a healthy diet

Diet is an important aspect of overall health and is an important component of maintaining a positive state of mental health. 

There has been plenty of research studies that have been linked to what we eat and higher risks of depression. Research finds that well balanced meals with adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, grain, and healthy fats are related to lower risks of depression.

Sleep well

Take time to improve your sleep hygiene. Research has found that sleep disorders are also a core symptom of depression. Irregular sleep and not enough sleep can make your healing process difficult and can even heighten the risk of relapse. 

Some of the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene are

  • Avoid substances that impact your sleep, this includes caffeine. 
  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid heavy dinners
  • Change your sleeping environment to be more soothing and sleep inducing. 
  • Make changes in your pre-sleep routine such as taking relaxing baths before sleep, avoiding gadgets two hours before sleeping time.

Connect with loved ones

Reaching out to people who love you and letting them know that you are having a hard time now, can bring you closer to people who truly love and care for you.

These are positive relationships we want and need around you as you begin your journey to recovery. Positive relationships help you discover joys and meaning to your life. 

Make plans to meet them for lunch, or go for a walk with them. Make sure you make clear what you can and cannot do and agree on something that both you and them can enjoy. 

You can also take the step to connect with other people who are coping with depression through group therapy or support groups.

Oftentimes, listening to other people’s successes can instil hope, it also gives you the opportunity to learn new perspectives of living and life along with new techniques to cope.

Conclusion

In this blog we will discuss Nicole Arbour and her advice on coping with depression. 

References

Sarah Schuster. Nicole Arbour’s New Video Offers a ‘4-Step Cure’ for Depression – There’s Just One Problem. The mighty. Retrieved on 28th April 2022. https://themighty.com/2018/01/nicole-arbour-depression-is-all-in-your-head/

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