5 Things I Wish People Understood About My Depression


I’m pretty sure my battles with anxiety began in preschool, but I don’t really remember experiencing depression until I started middle school. Two decades later, I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that mental illness will probably be a lifelong struggle.

Depression affects every aspect of my life – my health, my family, my career and my friendships. And, even though we’ve come a long way as a society in recent years, in recognizing and treating mental illness, I still encounter stigma surrounding depression on a regular basis.

In many cases, it seems mental health is either ignored altogether or put on a back burner to physical health. This is both dangerous – as the two pieces are intricately connected – and demeaning, as dismissing mental illness can actually fuel its negative effects.

Here are five things I wish other people understood about those of us with depression and anxiety.

1. I didn’t choose depression; it chose me.

I want, more than anything, not to be anxious or depressed. It is something ingrained in my genetics, my experiences and the wiring of my brain since early childhood. Medications can help, diet and exercise can help, and counseling can help, but they don’t erase depression and anxiety. Trust me, if I could turn off my mental illness, I would.

2. Depression affects every area of my health.

More than 80 percent of people with depression report a change in sleeping habits. The lack of sleep can impair my immune system, making me more likely to catch viruses and less likely to fight off infections on my own. I’m prone to frequent headaches and fatigue and chronic sinus infections.

3. I am more tired of my depression than you are.

I know my mental illness exhausts the people around me; it exhausts me, too. I want to be able to “fix” me as badly as you do. I don’t use my struggles to get your attention; in fact, I usually hide them because I am ashamed and keenly aware my mental illness affects everyone around me. The only reason I share my struggles with depression and anxiety is to hopefully encourage others in the same boat.

4. I need your patience and support in my depression, not your criticism and dismissal of my feelings.

I am already anxious about having anxiety and depressed about being depressed. Your dismissal of my feelings and criticism of my ongoing struggles with mental health only push me further into my downward spiral of guilt and shame. I need you to listen, extend grace and ask how you can help instead.

5. Believe it or not, I’m doing the best I can.

Mental illness makes me feel like I am constantly failing at everything I do, but I keep trying anyway. I fight an uphill battle against depression and anxiety each day because I want to be a loving and attentive mom, wife, friend, daughter, granddaughter and sister. I don’t do everything perfectly, but I’m giving you my best effort and asking God to cover my shortcomings in his strength and forgiveness.

Image via Thinkstock.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Depression

man in a dark room

9 Things Depression Is (and 4 Things It Is Not)

1. Depression is a version of yourself. It’s like your brain trying to talk through a poorly insulated wall to a monkey operating your face, body and senses. You are nearby. It’s kind of you — but not a good you. It’s not a you that you like anyway. It’s a you being operated by [...]
half a woman's face sketched

A Day as 'the Girl With Depression'

I’ve noticed many people in my life don’t understand my behavior and the way I react to various events — because they are comparing me with the average healthy woman. So I would like to explain what really goes on in my head as someone with depression. When you read about depression on the internet you’ve probably come across [...]
a woman putting a letter in an envelop

A Goodbye Letter to the Old Narrative, Depression

Dear Old Narrative, I was young, 18 years old, when you entered my life. Developing quickly, your strength overwhelmed me and consumed me. I gave in to all that you offered. You did serve a purpose, in the beginning and for many years since. Yet, your harsh words and ideas injured me and diminished my [...]
A drawing of a woman

5 Things I Wish People Who Don't Have Depression Understood

I have lived with depression for half my life. It has led me to say and do harmful things to myself. In the years I spent trying to make sense of the thoughts in my head, it has become apparent there are still parts of depression that are misunderstood. Here are some things I wish [...]