Depression: What it is and what it isn’t


It’s like a black cloud that constantly follows you around everywhere you go. People will tell you, “Well you don’t look depressed!” But don’t have the slightest idea what depression looks like.

Depression comes in many forms and isn’t the cliché crying in a room alone all day every day. In fact, many individuals with Major Depressive Disorder lead “normal looking lives.” It’s not just having the blues. What do I mean by that? It’s simple. Depression doesn’t have a one size fits all. Take this for example:

Annie wakes up every day in a routine schedule. She goes to work, comes home and sometimes watches TV, or maybe will even catch up with a friend. There’s no signs Annie is depressed right? How can that be? What you’re not seeing is Annie wakes up every day and must fight herself to get out of bed. She experiences body aches for no medically explained reason. She skips brushing her teeth and showering, while doing the “bare minimum” to make herself look presentable. Annie either sleeps too much or doesn’t sleep at all. If she doesn’t write down her tasks for the week, even if she does the same things every week, she forgets.

Annie is experiencing high functioning depression. In a nutshell, it means that Annie can fake it when she walks out of her door and be around others. She can get what she needs to get done while pushing her depression to the side. However, the moment she is alone, the black cloud resurfaces.

Lets take a look at what the common symptoms of depression can include: 

Right now, you are probably looking at that last line where it says, “emotional numbness” and you might be a little confused. That’s because as a society we are so conditioned to view depression as extreme sadness that won’t go away. However, there are many individuals who have depressive episodes and experience no emotions. It is almost as if they have a void inside of them that makes things feel weird. 

Many people think sadness and depression are one in the same. Sure, sadness is one symptom of depression, but it’s not the only one. Sadness is a normal human emotion that even individuals who aren’t experiencing depression will feel at one point or another. Sadness can be alleviated quickly, whereas depression is much more lasting.

The bottom line? Depression stinks. It’s not something that can be glorified and is certainly not something someone can “get over.” Telling someone to “stop being depressed” and “just think positive” does not magically cure them. In fact, telling someone with depression these statements can cause more harm than good. Invalidation is the worst form of treatment to give someone when they are depressed.

For those of you who this may resonate with, understand this. It can and will get better! Every day that you decide to stick around and push through is you giving yourself an opportunity to see the rainbow after a hurricane. It won’t happen instantaneous, and it may not be as fast as we want, but it WILL happen. You just need to ride the wave a little longer to get back to shore.

If you find yourself in this position, it will be okay. The most important thing I want you to take away from this is hiding and masking what you’re feeling is exhausting. It is okay to let others know what you’re going through. It’s the first major step on the road to healing. A licensed therapist can help you work through this journey as well. You deserve to have a safe space to learn and heal.

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to try to improve your mood, such as:

Journaling – this will give you the opportunity to discover what you’re feeling. It gives you the chance to gain a better understanding of yourself.

Gratitude list – Creating a list of what we are grateful for in life is an excellent way to allow our minds to shift into focusing less on the sadness and finding better in the world. When we are depressed, it’s easy to focus on the negatives and “filter” the positives in our life. Pausing for moments of gratitude can help change that type of thinking.

Positive self-talk – replace those inner critic comments you often make to yourself with more affirming and positive comments. For example, “I am allowed to be human, and my feelings are valid” and “I am worthy even if I make a mistake.”

Identify your strengths and acknowledge every achievement no matter how big or small!

Remember that these symptoms and feelings did not just come overnight. They were there even when you didn’t realize it was creeping in, so give yourself time to heal, but just know that you can and will get through this. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “believe you can and your halfway there.”

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