It’s been over a week and all the talk about depression has ceased. The problem is that for those of us who battle depression it has not ceased. In fact we face it every single day. It doesn’t go away when people stop talking about it. I thought that it might be nice to bring up some common misconceptions about depression.
Last week I wrote my most personal post ever. I poured my heart out and confessed to the world that I have a daily battle with Depression. I am so grateful for the *mostly* positive response I received. I opened my email to multiple letters with multiple messages.
Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone. I’m here if you need anything. If you can stand up so can I, I’m going to talk to someone.
I also lost some friends. They were not rude, they never even said a word. They just walked away, unfriended me on Facebook, and went on with their lives with out me. I’m not really sure why they left. I didn’t insult them. Maybe they were uncomfortable? Maybe they don’t know how to respond or what to say? I’m finding as I read other articles on the web about depression it seems there are a lot of misconceptions and scary theories out there.
I’m not a mental health expert or a counselor but I have been there. Sometimes there is comfort in that alone. I remember the day my mother died. She was very sick and I’m very thankful she is in a better place. Really, I am. I am so glad I didn’t have to watch her suffer another day (she died of cancer). She was one of my best friends and it tore me up. Everyone’s words and presence was greatly appreciated. There was one friend though that had lost her mom a few years prior also to cancer and just her saying she was there for me was extra special. I knew all my friends would be there for me, that they all loved me and they’d all do anything I needed. I knew though that she “got it” She understood exactly what I was feeling even though I was not able to express it.
I feel the that way about depression. Why am I standing up and letting the whole world know? Well if one person reading my words, the one who hides the same secret battle … if they realize they’re not alone and I (we) get it, then maybe they’ll get help too. I read in all these posts and news articles that if you’re depressed you should get help, yet they say such ignorant things. I’m sure they mean well, but I feel that they don’t have their facts straight. They just don’t seem to “get it” Why would anyone want to stand up and get help after reading what they think of people with depression? My hope in this post is to clear up some of the ignorant misconceptions.
You’re just having a bad day, everyone does.
Yes, everyone has bad days. Some even have days worse than others. I have had bad days and good days. I also have depression. Having a bad day and being depressed are NOT the same thing. They’re not even close. I worked at a pharmacy through high school and college and was held up and robbed one night there. That was a really bad day. When I slip into my deep dark funks they aren’t even close. Circumstances make bad days, feelings that arouse from those circumstances. Depression is a state of mind. Everything can go right on a day and I am still depressed. It has nothing to do with circumstances around me. I am not sad – I’m in deep dark despair.
You just need joy. You just need to be positive.
I’m not sure if you read the recent post that talked about this, but I did and I think it bothered me more than some of the other misconceptions. This is what was said:
“In the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time.”
Seriously? Anyone who knows me knows that I have joy and I am a joyful person. It is not an act. Just because I don’t go around telling everyone I also have depression does not mean I do not have joy. Psalm 28:7 says “the joy of the Lord is my strength” and it truly is. Holding on to that truth helps me fight each day. I love people, my family, my friends, life, living and having fun. I am a positive person. I always see the glass “half full” and try to find the silver lining in every situation. I also have depression.
You can’t have depression because you have an awesome life.
I do have an awesome life. I have amazing family and amazing friends. I am married to my best friend who loves me no matter what. I get to travel and meet people all over. I get to do fun things for a living like zip lining, meeting celebrities, cooking, helping kids, watching movies. I constantly have people telling me they’re jealous of my life. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and continue to have. I have a life better than I could have ever hoped for. I still have depression. My depression never focuses on my life. It focuses on me. Here’s a few of the lies depression tells me. You’re no good. You are so far gone that you’re only dragging down the ones you love. They would be so much happier if you were gone. You are a waste of space. Yes, as I type this I know none of that is true. But if you were listening it never said anything about my job, home, the car I drive. Now, some people have lost everything and they are also depressed. I can’t imagine that added to the pain of depression and their battle may be a bit different than mine. I’m sure that plays into their depression and does not help them with the fight, but my point is you can have an awesome life and still have depression. Depression does not discriminate.
It’s not a real medical illness.
The NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) defines depression as:
Major depression is a mood state that goes well beyond temporarily feeling sad or blue. It is a serious medical illness that affects one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and physical health. Depression is a life-long condition in which periods of wellness alternate with recurrences of illness.
I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions when people believe it’s not an illness they open the door to a lot of the other misconceptions.
It’s a choice.
I wish this was true. I would choose to never be depressed again in a heartbeat. The reality that it is not a choice is another debilitating factor of having depression. You try so hard to fight it and it just won’t go away no matter how badly you desire it to.
You just need to get over it. Just snap out of it.
You hear people comparing depression to cancer and while it’s not the same thing, the point is it is a disease and you can’t just “snap your fingers” and be cured. Here are some other common diseases and illnesses: Alzheimer’s, Asthma, Crohn’s Disease, Diabetes, Eczema, Epilepsy, Infertility, Polio, Tuberculosis Some are worse than others, each is different and those fighting them have their own battles. Would you ever walk up to any one with those illnesses and tell them to get over it? No, it’s ridiculous to even think about it. Why is depression any different? It’s an illness too.
Maybe the problem is that the organ that is being affected is the brain. Yeah, that must be it. Oh, wait. Tumors and cancer can also affect the brain and you would never tell anyone with a brain tumor or brain cancer to snap out of it because they can’t. I have depression and I can NOT snap out of it.
Yes, at times my illness is better than others. I can totally do things that help keep it under control. That is why I would encourage any one battling depression to seek help. I am in a good place. It’s not always been that way and lately (the last few years) I’ve had many more “good days” then “bad days” in my fight.
You’re just being lazy.
No, I’m exhausted. I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. There are days it’s a fight to get out of bed. I am that overwhelmed and drained from fighting depression daily.
It’s all in your head.
While it may start in my head it is physically painful. When I am in the deep and dark despair it physically hurts. My chest tightens and has sharp pain. My head hurts. It’s beyond difficult to breath. People that have had panic attacks thought they were having a heart attack due to the physical pain.
You are being selfish.
I addressed this when I talked about my own suicide attempt. The last thing I was thinking was how ending my life would be good for me. I thought about my family, my friends, the people I loved and I thought about how I’d be rescuing them and saving them from myself. Yes, it’s twisted, I know. It makes no sense and that is part of the problem. Depression distorts all logic.
I read a great post that compared depression to a person trapped in a burning high rise. It stemmed from this quote from David Foster Wallace.
The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise.
There are some pretty famous people that have suffered from depression - Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Patton, Florence Nightingale, Sir Isaac Newton, Ludwig von Beethoven and Michelangelo. I never really thought of any of them as selfish.
You just want attention.
Yes, after hearing people talk about Depressed people as selfish, lazy, and weak I thought, man I need that kind of attention. If I say it affects me they’ll see me as selfish, lazy and weak! Sign me up. Um, yeah, that thought never ever crossed my mind. You know what did cross my mind? I thought about how embarrassing and humiliating it was going to be to tell people. The day after I posted I fought depression I was sure that when I went out in public everyone was looking at me and whispering about me behind my back. The truth is they probably have no clue who I am and don’t even care. Not that they are not caring people, but they have their own battles they’re dealing with.
Saying you have depression is a sign of weakness.
Try again. Did you read some of these misconceptions? Saying I have depression despite people thinking I’m selfish, lazy, and weak is brave. It’s courageous. Unfortunately it should not be this way. You never hear people telling others they’re brave for admitting they have diabetes, cancer, asthma, or eczema. You will probably hear people telling others they’re so brave for fighting so hard when they have cancer. I know my mom was brave when she fought cancer for 4 years. We’ve already established that depression is a real disease. I should not be seen as being brave for saying I have depression. I should be brave for fighting it.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. – Nelson Mandela
It will go away if you just ignore it.
Depression is a REAL disease and it does not get better by just ignoring it. In fact, it refuses to be ignored. The longer you try to hide, stuff, ignore, and just not deal with it the more it tears you apart and sends you into a tailspin of despair and utter hopelessness.
Depression is no big deal – it’s not that serious.
Really? Since when is death not that serious? Here are some terrifying statistics:
- Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year.
- Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds.
- On average, 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
- Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people.
- About 2/3 of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number 1 cause of suicide.
- There is 1 suicide for every 25 attempted suicides.
- 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year.
I don’t know about you, but that’s serious. We need to look at the facts and stop shaming those who are just sick. They are human beings that have an illness called depression. How on earth can you expect them to seek help for this illness if you keep telling them it’s all in their head?