Sure, the thought counts. So think twice.
I have clinical depression. It’s been a part of my life since I hit puberty. I have had highs and lows and will continue to have them throughout my life.
I’m an adult, I’m in treatment, and years of it has taught me incredible coping skills.
But that doesn’t always make it easy.
One of the toughest things about having depression is something people don’t always talk about: interacting with others.
In the US, depression is less stigmatized than it is in other parts of the world for sure. We’re more open about mental illness here, though we still have miles to go.
An unfortunate side effect of that openness can be dealing with people who don’t understand how to deal with people who have depression.
Below you’ll find nine things people with depression (myself included) are tired of having to confront on a daily basis.
I don’t want to sound snide or unappreciative of the people who think they are showing us support, and I hope conversations like this one will make an ongoing dialogue about mental illness easier for everyone involved.
1. “You don’t seem depressed.”
All depression is not created equal and the people who suffer from it are also all totally different from one another. I can get a blow-out, put on lipstick, laugh at a joke in public, and still have depression. That doesn’t make me magically better.
2. “You should try meditation.”
It’s great, great, great that your friend/uncle/co-worker cured their depression with a regularly scheduled meditation session. I’m so happy that they found the peace and coping mechanism that they needed. I’ve tried it, and meditation is great, but for me personally it is not as great as weekly therapy and a low dose of antidepressant.
3. “I exercise, so I never get depressed.”
It’s true that exercise releases serotonin, one of the chemicals produced by the brain that makes you feel happy. A natural side effect of exercise is that lovely rush of serotonin. I’m a depressed person and exercise definitely gives me a little boost. But it’s not a cure. People with depression have brains that actually produce LESS serotonin than everyone else on a regular basis. So while the uptick in the stuff feels great, it doesn’t solve the overall problem.
4. “Can’t you just take medication?”
I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to be friends with people who understand that managing depression is a lifelong struggle, and a real one. But I can’t tell you how many people I know whose mental illness has been dismissed as no big deal now that antidepressants exist. While we’ve made great strides with drugs to treat depression, that’s no reason to dismiss someone else’s experience.
5. “It’s just a party.”
What feels like the easiest thing in the world to you can be a challenge of the highest order for a person going through a depressive episode. I have had days where the concept of blinking was more than I could handle. Sure, parties are great. But when you’re struggling to do simple things, please understand how a big social event might be overwhelming for us.
6. “You shouldn’t sleep so much.”
A person with depression isn’t sleeping because they are lazy. A person with depression is sleeping because they have real, physical symptoms that have totally exhausted them. Sleeping when you’re depressed can, in fact, be a good thing. Sleep is when the body does most of its healing.
7. “Oh my god I know, I get so depressed when it’s cold outside!”
The word depression itself has become deeply overused. There is a difference because clinical depression and you getting a little annoyed that you have to wear pants instead of the cute skirt you just bought to work. We all get bummed out, depression is different.
8. “Have you ever tried to kill yourself?”
Legitimately I have been asked this twice when talking about my depression. If a depressed person chooses to share their story with you, that’s their prerogative. I, for one, don’t relish talking about the darkest periods of my life while also splitting cheese dip.
9. “Don’t watch this part of the movie, you won’t be able to handle it.”
It’s really kind when people try to protect their friend with depression from things they think they won’t be able to handle. But here’s the thing, while we may have depression, we’re also adults. We know our own minds. We can turn away from something if we feel like it will be triggering. If we need your help, we won’t be afraid to ask for it.