Please Stop Telling Me to 'Cheer Up'
Depression. I feel like living with depression is playing a game of hide and seek with a ghost. You know it’s there, you know you have to face it, and you know those are two things you do not want to do. You start feeling OK one day, then good the next, then finally everything seems fine. You feel like you are on top of the world, yet when you get to the top, you find that ghost you were hoping you had lost playing hide and seek. Boo! Great another bout of depression.
Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a heartache that leaves you feeling remorse. You feel as if you are grieving, grieving each day with no answers to those who ask how you are. I don’t even know how to answer that question anymore. I usually feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety when asked. I usually say I am “amazing,” or crack a joke to deflect any further questions into how I am actually feeling.
If I open up about depression I am usually met with the following phrases: “you are in charge of how you feel,” “This too shall pass,” “Are you on your period?” “You should seek out gratitude towards what you have,” “You are too pretty to be so sad,” “If you put out good energy, you will get back good energy.” Those are some of the least frustrating things that have been said in hopes of “cheering me up.”
You have to realize that when you tell me what to do — to cheer up, to get over it, to pray on it, to seek out gratitude — you make me feel responsible and more guilty about my depression. I already feel this way. It suggests I am not trying, and believe you me, I am trying my hardest to get through this.
Depression is isolating, it’s dark and it makes you feel overwhelmed. It’s as if you are drowning with no way to escape and being pulled far down beneath the water. You know if you just had some air, if you could get out of the water, you would be fine. But depression is a slow drag under the water. You can feel how uncomfortable and how restless your soul is getting. Your body is even starting to tire from the fight.
When I admitted I was struggling with depression I was living away from my children, I was in constant pain from undiagnosed conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and I had become so withdrawn that my boyfriend didn’t even know I was struggling, until one day I came home, laid with him on the couch and burst into tears. I could no longer hold in the pain I was feeling. I felt like I wanted to stop living. I was having suicidal thoughts. I felt like a bad mother, like a bad girlfriend, and overall that I didn’t deserve the people who I love most. I had let out the words finally, and that’s when I for the first time saw what I was scared of most. Fear. Fear of admitting I was depressed. Fear that I was feeling suicidal. My boyfriend had no clue I was hurting. I had just dropped a major bomb onto his life. His girlfriend had just admitted she was in so much emotional and mental pain that living felt like a chore.
Everything I had tried doing about my depression didn’t work. I tried keeping myself busy with modeling, photography, work, and even chores. I wanted to be the perfect person, and in my mind, perfect people didn’t get depressed. How could they? Alas, my plan backfired, and I had shoved everything so far down that I was self-destructing. And I felt like I’d just taken one of the people I love the most down with me. He was scared and not sure how to approach the situation. He just wanted and to this day wants me to be happy.
Overwhelmed by hopelessness, remorse, self-loathing, and fear, I just wanted to make it go away. I wanted to “fix” myself because I didn’t want him or anyone else hurting because I was hurting. That’s what depression does. It not only hurts those who struggle with it, but it hurts the people we love. We acknowledge this, and it only fuels our pain.
If you want to help or encourage those with depression, do say the following:
I love you.
I am here for you.
How can I help you?
I want to understand.
You are not a burden, bad, etc.
You are not replaceable.