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How I Describe Depression to Someone Who Has Never Gone Through It

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How do you describe depression to someone who has never gone through it? How do you give them a bit of insight? Is it even possible?

One analogue I have come up with was a friend (bear with me). Imagine having a friend (your mind), Throughout your whole life you go through everything together. You take on the world. You go through ups and downs. You support one another. You trust one another and you tell that friend everything. They give you advice. You start to have accomplishments and failures. You learn and you keep going. This friend is someone who has your back. You don’t even have to think about it. It’s like breathing, like second nature, hell this friend is part of you and you are part of him/her. If you have someone in your life, like this think about that person. If you have ever had a relationship like that or close to it, think of it for a while.

You attack the world together. Things will happen but you bounce back, get up and dust yourself off. Your friend starts to suggest you should let go of some things you love to do. Starts saying these activities or clubs (whatever) are “a lot of effort to keep doing” or “Don’t you think you should spend that time on your job instead” or “What use is that activity in the real world?” Just little hints that an activity (or whatever you love to do) should take a back seat. That the world is a serious place and as such you should act accordingly. Then you let those things slide; after all, you trust their judgement. It’s so gradual you don’t even see anything wrong with it.

Then this friend you trust and have been through so much with focuses on your worries. Every worry you tell him/her about they will respond with the mentality of “That is possible and even likely” or “Yeah I know and it is even possible for [insert even more dramatic outcome] to happen,” then lists off half logical and completely fantasized reasons that it is possible.

Side note: I guess I was kind of naive in the sense that, why wouldn’t your own mind have your best interests at heart? After all, it looked out for me for so long. Avoiding things because they are difficult (even if we love them) is a way to avoid heartache in the future. Which makes sense — you want to avoid pain. Some pain is not avoidable, however, and some even necessary. The pain I avoided in secluding myself was delivered tenfold when on my own with my overly active depression.

So your friend has basically convinced you to drop things that matter to you (that make life worth living), the tough things that give you confidence or lessons to learn from. You start to spend most of your time on your own with your friend because he/she is the only person who understands why you are hold up and don’t socialize. Then you start to realize that you are unhappy, maybe even before this. You start to realize that where was once fun and life, is now just empty. When you do laugh, it is either to cover up the hollowness you feel or it pains you because it makes you realize how empty you are.

So here is where the analogue fails. My analogue includes a friend there with you. But with depression there is no one there. Well, a more accurate description is: it feels like no one is there. You tell yourself no one will understand your logic. Although, I think avoiding pain is the most basic of human urges. The trade-off is not worth it, though. The emptiness, the pain of loneliness and the self-loathing for not doing what you want to do. It was a hard experience for me to go through, but it can be done. It is a tough and long journey but it can be traveled.

Two things I will advise people to do if they relate to this post is: Be brave and be as honest as you can with the people around you. Talk until it is uncomfortable. Then say one more sentence. As much as you wish (well, I did), no one can read your mind. You have to be honest with people and some of them will even help you. The second piece of advice is that it is your journey and no one can do this for you, although they can support you along the way. You will learn so much. I also know that if you are suffering from this, you are incredibly strong. It is torture. But I know you can survive and thrive.

To those who have seen this in someone they love, I will give you this advice: People with depression often feel like a burden to those around them. You may not feel that way towards them but in their mind it is reality. So pity does not help. Pity is useless to them. Action speaks louder than words. You need to take action because a lot of depressed people may be immobilized. You need to tell their parents; forget about what you think might happen. If you are worried, that is a sign it’s serious and the alternative could be a lot worse. Make an appointment for them: Tell them you’re going to make an appointment for them on a certain day. If they say not that day, work with them to find a day. They may be more relieved then you think. If they react negatively you have to tell them that you are worried about them and let the conversation flow from there. Don’t shy away. I would recommend having this conversation while they are in a depressed state because it is harder for them to deny it.

Truth above all else. Take a deep breath and tell them how you are feeling. I believe honesty (as massive a cliche as it is) is the best policy.

Originally published: September 9, 2016
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