Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

depressed is a feeling

Recently someone left a social media comment on a post I made about depression which began with, "We've all been depressed... " The person who left the comment went on to explain that she/he was currently dealing with this and that and therefore depressed. While the commenter was trying to empathize, and I realized that, the statement, "We've all been depressed..." really irked me.

My post was about depression, an illness, which everyone has not, in fact, experienced. The writer was referring to feeling depressed, not an illness, which most people have likely experienced. Feeling depressed is not the same as depression, and others mistaking the feeling for the illness is one of the many difficulties of living with depression. Depression is an illness. Depressed is a feeling.

When I speak publicly about my illness, I always talk about the difference between depression and depressed. The problem is everyone has felt depressed. Therefore some feel they know what depression is and what needs to be done to cure it. After all, they were depressed once.

This confusion is the root, I believe, of the unhelpful advice we sometimes receive. Advice to "just smile more," or "think happy thoughts," or "just get out of the house and you'll feel better," is not helpful because those of us with depression know there's more to it than that. We have more than an unpleasant feeling to deal with. We have symptoms to manage.

You'll never hear me say, "I'm depressed." When I speak about my illness, I always refer to my symptoms. I say things like, "When my depression symptoms are more prevalent..." Just as cancer patients do not say, "I am cancer," and people with MS do not say, "I am MS," I very purposefully do not say "I am depressed." After all, I am not depressed today, but I still have my illness, and that illness is depression.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting blog post. But is depression/ feeling depressed that clear cut?

You made it clear that you have depression, but what about others?
I thought I had depression, but when I went to the therapist and we went over my personal history, she told me that I might have PTSD stemming from some events from my past.

I'm not sure what that means. Do I have depression or am I depressed? Thanks!

Tricia said...

I also feel put off and my illness discounted by people who say, "we all get depressed." I don't know their motivation for saying that -- if they're trying to be sympathetic, or poo-poohing our illness. But the implication is depression is a character defect that can be overcome by just putting on our big girl panties and getting on with it. Nevertheless, when I hear people say this it makes me feel isolated, misunderstood, and I want to go deeper into the closet about my depression. It's hard to fight those feelings. Sometimes I get very self-protective and a little bit in-your-face about my illness. It's hard enough to fight my inclination to blame myself, so I (and maybe others) are particularly vulnerable to these kinds of uninformed statements. It's good we have each other to help deflect stupid comments like that. Thanks for bringing this up.

Eva said...

I have often told people to see this TED talk from Andrew Solomon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eBUcBfkVCo). Or this documentary from the BBC (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5YubjEqbZ8))

My favorite quote from Andrew Solomon is: "The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality"".

And from Stephen Fry "If you know someone who's depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather."

I really get sad when people think I'm just "down", or sad. It implies I can easily do something about it: Go do something fun! I suffer from depression nothing is fun to me!!!

I do get why depression is so hard for people to understand when they never have had this illness themselves. The illness is mindboggeling. After 15 years it still is to me.

Eva.(the Netherlands)

TO ANONYMOUS:
Actually you can have both PTSD and Depression. Depression is often a symptom of PTSD. You can find more information if you Google PTSD and Depression. Here is something I found :

Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events.

Most people who experience such events recover from them, but people with PTSD continue to be severely depressed and anxious for months or even years following the event.

I also know people with PTSD get treated with antidepressants. You should ask your therapist about it.

peggywilson said...

I do believe people do not know what it is like to be truly depressed. I suffer depression, often think about ending my life and its like a hole and you cant get out. I feel like my husband does not understand what it is like to be depressed, been up all night going for a six mile run at 3am while he sleeps the night away. Everyday I hope and pray that I become a stronger person but I think deep down I know I will have to live with this illness forever and ever. I hope your blog becomes an inspiration to me as I just discovered it.

paullamb said...

This post speaks very clearly to me. I come from a tradition that would tell me just to "snap out of it" if I divulged that I had depression. "What do you have to be depressed about? Other people have it a lot worse than you." That kind of thing. They have no idea what it's like in the pit.

I've been living with this for 48 years. There's nothing temporary or mild about it. Believe me, if I could "snap out of it" I surely would have.

Jim Work said...

E......I totally get the rotten feeling when my illness is belittled. I also find more times than not, I willingly give more grace than I should for well-meaning people that make a bad analogy when trying to relate to depression. I have found that there are just some people that will never understand or accept the nature of depression as a disease.
The logical side of my brain yells at me to just turn on the light when I find myself in the dark room. The problem being that while I would love to turn on the f#*&ing light switch if I could only just find it amongst the darkness.,,,en theos.....jim

Anonymous said...

There are depressed feelings that come and go and we all have some of those. Depression is another thing and it can often be involuntary or environmentally influenced. For me, it can be sudden and usually is influenced by an environmental factor...every one is different...John

Paul said...

Maybe we need a new term to name our condition, one that doesn't have some variation of the letters d-e-p-r-e-s-s in it. Too many people think the feeling of depression must be the same thing as the condition of depression, simply from the similar use of the wording.

kosh said...

I have several people in my life that believe depression is just in my head. I've had this illness for as long as I can remember. For the past...fifteen years or so, I've been able to suppress it to some point. It is now taking hold again.

Your post is beautifully put. I have not been calling it an illness, but it truly is. Thank you for your post.

Anonymous said...

I know what you are saying. For me, it is sudden feeling of emptiness and loneliness. I have learned to let go, let God. I am a runner. It helps, unless I am in my depression modes. Good luck on your future and proceed forward...John.

Irene said...

I actually have been diagnosed with chronic depression, many years ago, and I still say all the wrong things. Others don't understand and I don't understand it all myself. It's a painful mood disorder which has sadly blocked much of my "potential," made clear thinking sometimes difficult, and ruined my gifts due to low energy. This helpful blog is about depression so your precision with language is artful and helpful. But people are wired differently and we are not able to be and do for others anything perfectly. I know that symptoms of my depression are at times very draining on others also and I hope that they can be tolerant and not always offended. Kindness helps.

Tricia said...

Eva, that was a great link to the Ted talk. I shared it on Facebook. Thanks for posting the link.



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