6 things I wish people understood about living with depression
Though depression is a very common mental illness, not everyone is lucky enough to understand the intricacies of living with it. These are a handful of things I wish more people knew.
I don’t need a specific reason to be depressed.
Negative life events can absolutely trigger a depressive episode, or a two-week-or-longer period in which someone feels “down, depressed, or hopeless.” But they don’t have to. Someone with depression, or “major depressive disorder,” can find themselves in a bout of deep sadness, numbness, and fatigue at any time for no reason at all, regardless of how well things are going for them in other areas of life. Trying to justify a depressive episode to someone who doesn’t understand this can be exhausting.
It’s hard to do the things that might help me feel better.
I know walks in the afternoon sunshine are good for me. I know I should continue to pursue my hobbies. I know I should keep up with my friends. But a common symptom of depression is fatigue—mental or physical—and that makes it difficult to find the energy to do more than just the bare minimum each day. Worse, depression is good at turning positives into negatives: My friends probably don’t want to see me anyway. I’m not good at painting to begin with, so why bother. While this is something many people work on in therapy, it can be difficult to battle in the moment.
Managing my depression during an episode takes a lot of work.
As someone with depression, I have to work harder than the average person to find hope. This is particularly difficult during a depressive episode—and if it’s during “unprecedented times” like the ones we’ve been in for the past year, it’s even harder. I am constantly attempting to implement the strategies and tools my therapist has taught me, while at the same time noticing specific thought patterns I should report to said therapist next time we meet so that my time with her is actually productive. Have I mentioned depression can be exhausting?
Depression is a disability.
I resisted this truth for a long time, but it’s one I need and deserve to acknowledge. Severe depression can make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do things many of us take for granted on “normal” days, like cook a meal or finish a project in an allotted timeframe. In an ideal world, those with depression would be comfortable communicating their needs and would be able to receive reasonable accommodations in turn. Unfortunately, society isn’t quite there yet.
Medication doesn’t fix everything.
I owe a lot of gratitude to antidepressants and the way they’ve helped me over the years. At the same time, being on an antidepressant (even if it’s the “right” one) doesn’t totally guarantee safety from symptoms of depression. Expecting me or anyone else with depression not to need support after getting settled in with a med is both misinformed and belittling.
Most of the time, I just want to be heard.
You don’t need to have all the answers. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect someone else to fix my problems, and vice versa. When I share with a friend or family member that I’ve been struggling, I do so with the hope of being heard and validated; after all, we’re all on our own tough little journeys, and we have to be there for one another. In the same vein, while solidarity is always comforting, it isn’t exactly helpful to confide in someone only for them to turn the conversation toward their own struggles.