What is depression?
I saw a post recently trying to describe depression, and it got me thinking about the way that we think about the word 'depression' and the perception or stereotype the word brings. What are the first words that spring to mind? Sadness, feeling low, unhappy, empty. How does it manifest itself? Do you see these things in people who suffer from depression or do they try to hide it? Why would they feel the need to hide it?
The stereotype or stigma attached to the word is also important to consider. What are we taught about depression? Do you imagine people with depression to be weak? How many people do you hear saying 'snap out of it' or 'smile, it might never happen!' Comments like this, perhaps, make it harder for people to feel as though they can be honest about their feelings. Or my favourite comment 'what have you got to be depressed about?' You would be surprised how many clients that I see who come in with this attitude. 'Well no one thinks I have anything to be depressed about...' or 'people are shocked when I tell them I am depressed as they look at my life and can't work out why...' There is a level of guilt over our feelings and whether or not we have a right to feel them, when 'there are lots worse off than me!' Another common comment from clients over their justification of why they should not be depressed. We have lost the ability to put ourselves first and to accept that our feelings and emotions are valid and worth exploring. The frustration over their situation feels like a difficult thing to accept and manage and in some ways can block the ability to do something for ourselves.
Depression can be so many things to different people, it doesn't always have to be sadness. It can be feeling numb but smiling through it when around people. It can be not being able to get out of bed when the day before you felt ok. It can be not eating because you are not hungry or cannot be bothered, or over eating because you feel empty. It can be loving too hard, or avoiding loving at all. It is not a constant feeling, but it is valid. Even if you hide it behind your smile, or the perception is you 'shouldn't be depressed', your feelings and emotions are valid and are important.
Perhaps it is the perception of the word now, the fact that people can use it to describe everyday emotions, instead of a condition, that has made it appear less important. Or the fact that, as a society, we have become much less accepting and more intent on making people 'get on with it'. It struck me that the reason that phrases such as 'you never know what people are going through' are so true, is because some people think of it as weak to admit having depression and they would rather hide it than be judged. I think that is really sad.
The reality of living with depression is a really stark and lonely one. But, the thing that depressed people need more than anything is acceptance and help, but are they allowing themselves to get this or is the perception and expected judgment too difficult to remove...