To Those Who Mean Well, but Don't Understand Depression
Today I’m depressed. I’m not just sad. I’m stay-in-bed-there’s-no-hope sad. Otherwise known as depression.
Sometimes you say to me, “Yeah, I know how it is to be sad.” I know you mean well. Of course you know sadness. We all do. But depression is so much more than just sadness. Comparing sadness and depression is like saying that getting wet and drowning are the same thing.
Depression is like being in a beautiful yard with a big hole in the middle.
You walk around the hole and are sad because your yard is temporarily ruined. It’s an inconvenience, an eyesore. But you will fill the hole and your yard will be beautiful again.
I, on the other hand, walk around the same hole, but I fall in. The hole is much deeper than it appears. And then it starts to rain and the hole fills quickly. I am barely able to hold my head above the muddy water.
When you are sad, you sometimes say you feel blue. When I’m depressed, the world is void of all color. No rainbows exist for me. There is no gold.
“But you have two healthy boys who love you, a husband who would do anything for you and a beautiful house,” you say. “What have you got to be depressed about?”
Nothing and everything. Yes, my life is full of wonderful people, and I am blessed to have the comforts that I do. I know that. But my depression couldn’t care less.
Depression, while often triggered by life’s hardships, can just as easily be triggered by nothing. And, let me tell you, that is the worst kind. Because when people ask me what’s wrong and I answer, I don’t know, the look I get says it all. They just don’t get it.
You might want to fix it – help me. And that would be incredible if it was that easy. But it isn’t. Depression runs its course, no matter how much I am loved. It doesn’t care.
Then why are you smiling and going about your day? Good question. Those of us who are depressed, often have to learn how to exist in two worlds simultaneously — the world of normalcy and the world of darkness that we have learned to mask when necessary. Believe me when I tell you, we can smile with the best of them. We can crack jokes, show up when needed and act the part of happy camper most of the time. What you don’t know is that inside, we are not there. We are on auto-pilot. Inside we are counting the minutes until we can be alone, until we can give in to the darkness, because we know that the only way out is through.
“But aren’t you on antidepressants?” Yes, I am. I’m so good at being depressed that I’m on two different ones. Then why are you still depressed? The medicine is not a cure. It’s a damper. It tends to make the episodes shorter. If I wasn’t on medication we’d be on season 49 of this show. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d be here. Yes, it’s gotten that bad before. When I’m depressed, I feel lost. I drift aimlessly through the days without purpose or motivation.
When I’m depressed I am Atlas, the weight of the world making every movement a monumental effort.
When I’m depressed, I just want it to be over. It’s exhausting.
Depression sucks all of the life out of any given moment. And it happens in a blink moment. This morning I was fine.
Tonight as I write this, the light is dimming and my dreams are too. So next time I tell you I’m depressed, just know that all I need from you is compassion and understanding. I need to know that you know I’m not being dramatic or looking for attention. I need you to know that I have a mental illness, and I’m trying not to let it define me. Mostly, I need you to know that I’m in here. Don’t forget that. I’m still me. And I will be back.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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Thinkstock photo via peshkov