When you think of depression, what expectations do you have? A person who is so sad, they can’t get out of bed?
That might be the reality for many people but I wanted to clear up some misconceptions, since depression is so different for everyone.
What is depression?
According to Mayo Clinic, depression is:
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
Some common symptoms of depression are:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep issues
- Lack of interest in things you enjoy
- Poor performance at work or school
- Isolating yourself
Expectations of depression
People read things like that and, without proper education, they think of one thing: weakness. “Why do people act that way? Why do they let a disease control them? And why can’t they be different? I don’t understand why they can’t just be happy.”
When people see the word “depression” they picture:
- a man so stressed at his job that he comes home and drinks until he passes out the couch
- a woman who is a bad mother because she lies on the couch all day
- someone who eats more than they should because they can’t stop
- someone who doesn’t eat enough because every bite makes them depressed
While these things may be true for some people, this is not the reality for all people who live with depression. And even if it is the case for someone, these symptoms do not define them.
The reality of depression
People who live with depression are not defined by their symptoms. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010. It was scary at first, but the more I read about it, and the more I connected with the mental health community, the more I realized that I would be okay.
When I refer to my illness, I never say, “I am bipolar.” I truly believe that part of the problem the mental health community faces is that we become our labels. When I was diagnosed, I was determined to not become my diagnosis. Instead, I choose to say, “I have bipolar disorder,” or “I live with bipolar disorder.” I don’t judge those that choose the “I am” language. But it is a preference that I believe can be beneficial for a person’s mindset.
So, what is the reality of depression?
- A woman who tries her best to get through the day with her kids
- An executive who is strong enough to fight the impulse to drink after a stressful day
- A man who takes a deep breath before walking in the door to his family after a long day at work
- A person who goes for a jog to combat the blues
- Someone who makes a salad instead of stopping for french fries.
That being said, I want to make something clear. The situations I outlined further up as “expectations” are certainly the reality for many people. And they should not be judged for their behavior. They have an illness that coinages their brain chemistry to the point where they sometimes feel as if they cannot live any differently.
However, they are not the poster children for depression. Yes, there are many expectations for what depression is. But, depression is so varied that we cannot look at these people as prime examples. Depression is everybody. It is the person behind you at the grocery store. It is the person who delivers your mail. Depression is the person who smiles at you as you walk past them. Depression is not a stereotype. It is everybody.
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