What I Want People to Understand About Casually Using the Word 'Depressing'

I was on the bus home today and I overheard two people talking. During their conversation one of them used the word “depressing.” They used it where a different word could have been used. One woman said, “I would have had to wait 15 minutes for the other bus so I got this one instead, and it’s so depressing.”

That’s annoying maybe, but not depressing.

It made me think about how often the words “depressed” and “depressing” are actually used when they’re not needed. Being depressed isn’t just being upset that you missed a bus. It isn’t having a little moment of being sad when watching a film. Having depression is an illness that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

Now, hands on heart, I will admit I am guilty of having used the word “depressed” when I didn’t mean it, but since being diagnosed with depression, I’ve realized just what it is feels like to be depressed. And that in the times I’ve used the word I didn’t mean them, I could have used a totally different word in replacement.

I’m not saying everybody should stop using these words and that it offends me when people use them in an everyday sentence. Sometimes people are just uneducated around the word — and I do not mean that in an offensive way at all. But generally we are uneducated on the subject of mental health in the sense that we are more educated in physical health.

According to Google, Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. People with a depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, angry, ashamed or restless.”

I didn’t know what depression really was until I was out of high school. I didn’t have a great understanding of mental health. I don’t ever remember being taught about mental health until college where I was taking health classes. I remember being taught about the immune system though. I remember being taught about the common cold. And the thing is, if you really look at depression, at anxiety, OCD, bipolar and other mental health illnesses, they’re a lot more common then you’d think. A lot more common than I thought they were. I didn’t notice until I was diagnosed with a mental illness just how common they were and just how many people have them.

I have a friend who was once speaking to me about some work, and she said, “I’m having a panic attack here.” She was not having a panic attack. She may have been experiencing anxiety. Everybody experiences anxiety. It’s normal. But there is a difference between having an anxiety disorder and having anxiety over an essay, or about an interview, etc. And there’s a huge difference between a panic attack, and experiencing a bit of anxiety.

I didn’t correct her, as I didn’t want to offend or cause conflict. But this again, made me realize people use the words without thinking. They use the words, maybe without understanding. Without realizing it could offend others. I don’t get personally offended — I’ve said I’ve used the words without meaning them before — but I used them because I didn’t understand them.

This is why I want it to be mandatory for mental health to be taught in school. I want children to know it is OK to have depression or anxiety or any other mental illness. It’s OK to need to ask for help. It’s OK to not be OK.

I want people to understand that saying something is depressing can offend others. You may not realize it, but there are people really really struggling out there, people who would give anything to just feel “normal.”

I want people to know what depression is. (Note: I am only really talking about depression and anxiety here because that is where my main knowledge is — and this is a problem.) I have limited knowledge on mental health illnesses myself, and I experience it. But if you’ve never had to know what depression is, you probably won’t have this knowledge.

I’m not asking people to try to understand how our minds work – sometimes we don’t even know! I’m just asking that people know what these conditions are, that they understand it isn’t a light subject. Our conditions are not something to be laughed about, to be teased or judged for. And I’m not asking to be treated like glass. We want to be treated like anybody else, but we want to be understood.

People are developing anxiety disorders and thinking they’re going “insane.” They think they’re being “stupid” or overreacting. They don’t know what’s going on or why they’re feeling how they do. This happens to children, too. They need to understand what is happening. They need to know they’re not “going mad.” They need to know there is help available to them. They need to know where to get this help from.

I just really want people to understand that mental illness is real. Mental illness can affect anybody, of any age, any sex, any religion. But people are there to help and understand.

At the end of the day, we’re all human.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock photo by Marjan_Apostolovic

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