I’ve suffered with depression for around 10 years now and it is only in the past 12 months that I have realised I do not need to give reason for my suffering. A bad day does not need to have a cause, other than depression.
I remember when I first experienced depression I felt as though I had to find a reason as to why I felt so horrendous, as though it wasn’t okay to feel that the world was such a dark and heavy place without good reason. I would speak to teachers or friends and say that I felt down and low because [insert whatever reason I could find] but of course it just made me look very sensitive to others. An argument with my mum would become the reason I felt so bad, then the grade in an exam or a comment from another pupil. I always latched onto it as a reason but then I would just be told not to dwell on things so much or that I needed to focus on the positives instead of the negatives but the ‘problems’ weren’t really problems, I just felt as though I couldn’t have depression without good reason.
I have now learnt that depression can be reactive or non-reactive. Depression can be caused by life events such as death, redundancy, moving house and so on but also it can occur for no ‘reason’ at all. As people often forget, depression is not an emotion but an illness that can be caused by many factors including genetic composition and chemical imbalance. Someone may have an excellent job, good earnings, a beautiful home and two gorgeous children and still suffer from depression, it doesn’t always need a life event or horrific circumstances to arrive in someone’s life.
I think the phrase, “I’m depressed” is used far too often in this society. Everyday I hear or see people jokingly saying that they are depressed:
“I’m depressed because there’s no biscuits.”
“I’m so depressed because all the tickets for the gig I wanted to go to are sold out.”
It makes it feel as though a reason is needed for having depression but it also takes away the seriousness of depression to the point people often forget that it is an illness and it is not just feeling a little bit sad. It’s horrific, numbing. Depression is a dark, heavy world which makes the simplest task feel like the most tiring thing in the world. It’s an illness of silence, loneliness and a form of tired that is unbearable but these little phrases of “I’m depressed” take that away which brings me to my next point.
Someone I am close to is physically disabled and I used to hate telling people because all through secondary school and college I was told by my ‘support’ that I should be grateful that I wasn’t born disabled and that I should look at how bad she has it and maybe then I would stop dwelling on my life. She’s been through horrific stuff and I know that. I care about her deeply but we’re both ill and neither of us chose our illnesses and yet I was told to pull myself together and appreciate that I could walk whilst her illness was seen in a heroic light. The people who were supposed to help me saw her as strong and me as weak. Their comments led to me feeling guilty for the way I was and caused me to bottle things up more and hide my illness away but dealing with depression alone is rarely a good thing and is often damaging.
I wish society would take a different view on people who suffer with depression. Sufferers are not lazy, weak or wallowing. Some of the sufferers I know are also among the bravest people I know. The strength and bravery it takes to wash your hair, walk down the street, sit at family dinners or sing happy birthday to a loved one when your illness is dragging you down to the ground, shouting in your ears and all of your energy has drained out of your body. That’s amazing.