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Why This Common Idea About Depression Is Wrong

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I can’t remember the person who said it or when it was said to me, but I remember someone telling me, “You have such a good life.” This doesn’t sound like such a bad thing to hear, except it happened while I was depressed.

The meaning behind the words was something along the lines of, “You have a lot of good things in your life. Why are you depressed? You are still young with life ahead of you. What’s with all this hopelessness?”

This person probably didn’t realize exactly what they were saying. They probably didn’t realize exactly what depression is and what it’s not. Maybe they were trying to be helpful, but those words stuck with me for a long time and have caused me to feel guilty for something that’s not my fault.

After hearing those words, I continued to live and struggle with depression over the years. I always had this vague, guilty feeling about being depressed. There were a lot of good things in my life. I had a lot of advantages other people might not have had. What was wrong with me for still being depressed? Shouldn’t I just be able to count my blessings and be happy?

It’s taken a while — over 10 years — for me to finally realize that depression doesn’t work that way. Depression doesn’t care if my life is “good” or not. It comes to people in “good” situations and to people in “bad” situations.

I could be surrounded by good things and good people and still go through depression because that’s what depression is. It’s not logical and it’s definitely not a lack of gratitude. I couldn’t just get myself out of depression by realizing my life was full of good things because being depressed is not just refusing to be happy with what I have.

Depression is a serious illness, and no one should feel guilty for having a sickness they never wanted.

Many years after first hearing that comment, I’ve finally been able to get it out of my head. I do have good things in my life, and I can recognize them. But I understand now that I don’t need to feel guilty about having those good things and still being depressed. I didn’t choose to have depression, and I can’t just snap out of it.

I’ve now changed my focus and am finding ways to heal from depression, get counseling and improve my overall mental health instead of trying to make myself feel happy and hopeful because someone else thinks my life is good. It’s taken me a while to learn more about my own depression, but I’m glad I finally have.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Nadi Whatisdelirium on Unsplash

Originally published: December 7, 2018
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