What I Wish My Friends Understood About My Depression

Here it is. I have been in and out of your lives for the past few months. I’m fully aware that I’m there one week and gone the next. There’s a reason for that. Every so often, my mind enters a dark territory that I’d rather not speak of. But when I do find myself willing to open up about what it’s like to have depression, I can’t help but feel like others are trying desperately to convince me that I don’t actually have it. I don’t think you mean to do this.

It’s a classical case of “the attribution error:”  I attribute what’s going on in my head to an internal factor (i.e depression), you attribute what’s going on in my head to an external factor (i.e life has been hard lately). The reality is that both are contributing to what’s been going on in my head lately. But each factor can be remedied by a different response, and that’s the issue. Life has been difficult lately, and maybe I do need to be reminded of my worth and that all situations are temporary.

But here’s the thing, my depression is so much more than feeling sad about my external circumstances. Depression is the most internal battle I have ever been faced with. I know it’s difficult to imagine what it’s like because you can’t visualize it. But you wouldn’t let someone with a broken arm play a game of basketball. In fact, even if they attempted to, you would quickly persuade them against it. What are they thinking? They clearly need time to heal.

However, if someone comes to us and confesses, “I think something might be wrong with my mind,”  we don’t have the same response. We are so quick so deny it, or to attribute it to what’s going on in their world externally: “It’s just a tough time, it will pass,” “You just need to get away for a little,” “Once you find a job, you’ll feel better.”  Perhaps these suggestions will make me feel better, but only temporarily. The illness lies in the roots, but you are only tending to the symptoms in the branches. I can’t heal that way. Instead, I’ll experience moments of alleviation, but, in time, I will fall apart again. And when I do, I will feel even worse, even more guilty for not being able to get it under control or for not keeping things in perspective.

Depression is so much more than a bad day or feeling sad. Depression is feeling as if I’m drowning, even visualizing it sometimes. It’s constantly feeling empty. It’s losing interest in the things I love the most. It’s consistently feeling like I’m not doing something right, or that I’m not doing enough. It’s feeling like people don’t like me, even the friends I’ve had for 10 years. It’s feeling a blow of defeat so physically that it becomes hard to breath. It’s feeling the need to hide from my friends and family, so I don’t burden them with my darkness. It’s living between extremes: being able to function around friends and family, and crashing back into the darkness once I’m alone again. It’s feeling like a black hole, a leech. It’s knowing I’m loved, but not being able to feel it. It’s feeling guilty for being alive. It’s hyper-focusing on tasks or hobbies to alleviate some pain and/or being consumed by that pain, so much so that I can’t leave the house. It’s dissociating — feeling so disconnected that it makes reality blurry and can even make me question whether I am actually alive or not. It’s an inability to visualize the future or having a constant fear of what is to come; a permanent sense of foreboding. It’s feeling as if I’m not going to make it, but being unable to articulate what that actually means.

And each time I hear a sentence that is meant to convince me that I don’t have depression, this very real battle of mine starts to feel like something I’ve made up; like it isn’t even real at all. But it is real and it is something I will experience time and time again. What we say to others is incredibility important in determining whether we are creating a dialogue that invites a discussion about mental health or shuts it down. It can be the difference between someone seeking help and someone hiding their battle even deeper inside of themselves. I hope you understand now, that it’s not just where I am in life, it’s deeper, it’s scarier and it’s time for some more help.

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