Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
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!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More on--I am not depressed.

I started this blog on January 8, 2008, with a poem, called I have depression. If you've read it, you probably noticed the lines, I am not depressed. I have depression. Sound familiar? One of the problems with the perception and acceptance of depression as a biological, treatable illness, as well as the stigma surrounding this illness stems from the word itself. Depression. It is a common, everyday word with common, everyday usage and meaning. Or is it?

From Merriam-Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:
depressed adj (1789): 1: low in spirits: SAD; specif: affected by psychological depression...

depression n (14c):...2: an act of depressing or state of being depressed: as a: a depressing down: LOWERING b (1) : a state of feeling sad: DEJECTION (2) : a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked esp. by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies c (1) : a reduction in activity, amount, quality or force (2) : a lowering of vitality or functional activity...

I have been speaking publicly about depression for at least 5 years. One of the main points of every single talk I give is this:

Depressed is a feeling.
Depression is an illness.

Despite making that point a thousand times, this is actually the first time I've looked it up! Phew! Webster's confirms it! Depression is a noun. It is a state of being. Depressed is an adjective. It describes the state of being. In other words, it is a feeling, and therein lies the problem.

Everybody on the planet has been depressed! Just as everybody's been happy, sad, angry, or frustrated, all of our family and friends have been depressed. Therefore, our well-meaning (usually) family and friends think they know what it is we are experiencing! A person without a cancer history wouldn't think to comfort a friend with cancer by saying, "Well, when I had cancer, all I did was..." because she never had cancer, and she understands she has no idea what the cancer patient is experiencing! However, that same person, assumes he can comfort his friend with depression because he's been depressed before. Hell, everybody's been depressed at some point in time, right?

Right. Almost everyone has experienced feeling depressed. When I ask students if they've ever uttered the words, "Ugh, I'm so depressed today," every hand in the classroom goes up. When I follow that question with, "Yup, me too, but I'm not depressed today," I get self-satisfying quizzical looks. Then I say, "But I still have depression today." After that statement, usually 1 or 2 light bulbs flicker in the eyeballs before me. By the end of my talk, I make sure all of the light bulbs are aglow. Depressed is a feeling. Depression is an illness--a biological, treatable, mental illness, which unfortunately shares its nomenclature with a very common feeling.

I never say, "I am depressed." When I talk about my illness, I talk about my symptoms. I talk about how I am feeling about my symptoms. I talk about my mood. I talk about my thinking. I tell my doctors about my eating, sleeping, fatigue, exercise, concentration, aches and pains. I never say, "I am depressed." I am not depressed. I have depression.

And by the way, depression sucks.


sueke said...

I noticed on Shiv's blog that you have received DBT therapy. I have just recently been told that I would benefit from DBT after years of "talk therapy". I am interested if you have the time to direct to a good page to find out about this therapy and I will check out more of your past blogs to read about your healing. Knowing that you have healed gives me great joy. By the way I have depression, I am not depressed thank you for clearing this up for people. It is such a stigma that I am just feeling down.

peace love and empathy

etta said...

Hi sueke (cool name, by the way!)-

Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you found my comment on Shiv's site helpful. DBT literally saved my life. I use my DBT skills every single day. They are skills for living, and they make my life so much simpler than it used to be! But DBT is not for the faint of heart. By that, I mean you have to be WILLING to recognize and identify your current behavior and thinking patterns, and then you must be WILLING to apply the skills you learn in order to change. For many of us, changing the way we think and/or act is scary. We've utilized certain behaviors and rationalized our thinking for so long, those things feel a part of us--unchangeable.
I think DBT is for BPD recovery as the 12-steps are for addiction recovery. They were both kits of tools laid at my feet, but I had to make the choice whether or not to pick them up and use them. I am so glad I did.
I do have a link within my "Let's Talk about BORDERLINE" post to a DBT info site. You may also want to do a search on DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or Marsha Linehan (founder). Should get plenty of resources from those searches. Also, check around your local community. I attended a 6-week inpatient program, and then a bit later, I entered a one year outpatient program at a local hospital. Slow learner...
Good luck. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help!

Nancie said...

There is surely a great misunderstanding between feeling depressed and having depression. Good of you to post these definitions. It helps when we know that depression is an illness that can be treated and nothing to be ashamed of.

Thank you for this great post!

la said...

I've been blogging on a similar theme this week. If it's OK, I'd like to link to this post.

etta said...

Cool with me!
Get the word out!

Marissa Miller said...

I never say, "I am depressed." I am not depressed. I have depression.

It actually gives me a new perspective on this considering so many people have said, "I'm depressed today." It always used to upset me but after reading this, you've pointed out that they actually use it properly. They can be depressed; I suffer from depression. Great post in differentiating between depression (noun) and being depressed (verb).