What is Depression?

[trigger warning: suicide]

I wanted to write a piece about depression with a hopeful message, something along the lines of “pro tips” or “lessons learned”.  I wanted to produce something positive and helpful to sufferers, loved ones of sufferers, and the curious.  I wanted to share my experiences as a sufferer, as a daughter, high school sweetheart, and close friend of too many sufferers, and as someone whose life has been touched deeply by suicide.

 I wanted to present these as experiences of learning, growth, perseverance.  I had this piece nearly written in full inside my head.

Possibly needless to say, this was on a Good Day.  A series of Good Days.  And now that I find that it is time to write, it is a Bad Day, and I haven’t seen a solid Good Day in a little while.  And as the nature of depression dictates, my outlook isn’t so sunny.  I can’t tell you that it’s worth it, and I can’t tell you how to deal with it, because today, I don’t know any of those answers.


All that I can tell you confidently is what it is.  I can only tell you this based on my experiences, but maybe, just maybe, these experiences can at least contribute to something informative.  So, what is depression?  Well, it certainly can’t be described in a sentence.
Depression is being sad.  For an “extended period”.
Depression is being sad about specific things.
Depression is being sad about nothing.
Depression is being sad about everything.
Depression is being totally and completely overwhelmed, no matter how much or how little there is to fret about.
Depression is spending a lot of nights crying yourself to sleep.
Depression is spending a lot of time in bathroom stalls hiding tears.
Depression is having no motivation.
Depression is not being able to derive pleasure from anything.  Not a beautiful day, not your favourite song.
Depression is barely leaving your home for months on end.
Depression is desperately wanting to get out, to go to work or school, to get that thing done, and knowing that it would make you feel better, but just not having the strength.
Depression is being totally and completely exhausted.
Depression is a fog: utter confusion and poor memory.
Depression is breaking down into sobbing as you approach the front door in the first time for 5 days, because the world is fucking scary.
Depression is being unable to sleep.
Depression is sleeping all of the time.
Depression is food cravings and overeating.
Depression is lack of appetite and under-eating.
Depression is feeling too much.
Depression is feeling too little.
Depression is not wanting anything, not being able to think of a single thing to hope for, aspire to.
Depression is low self-esteem, is no self-esteem.
Depression is a voice in your head that assaults you with endless verbal abuse.
Depression is enjoying being numb, is indulging in numbness.
Depression is wanting to die.
Depression is death as your happy place, as all you care to think about.
Depression is planning your death in vivid detail.
Depression is too frequently fatal.
Depression is not truly wanting to die, but definitely not wanting to be alive.  For years on end.
Depression is noticing, wide-eyed, that you are happy, because it is so infrequent.
Depression is switching back and forth between being unreasonably, manically happy and unreasonably, crushingly sad, without precedent.
Depression is losing touch with the people and things that make you happy.
Depression is losing touch with who you are.
Depression is being a lousy friend, roommate, daughter, sister, girlfriend.
Depression is far too much time in bed.
Depression is just as much time hating yourself, hating your failures, your weakness.
Depression is feeling utterly alone.
Depression is managing to appear 100% fine while dying inside.
Depression is feeling restless, feeling like you’re going to explode because there is too much contained within you.
Depression is being unable to force a smile.  Not leaving home specifically because you just can’t fake it.
Depression is failing your classes, taking too many sick days, dropping out of school, losing your job.
Depression is going on a roller coaster of medications and visits to doctors and therapists.
Depression is hurting yourself physically to distract from a much deeper hurt, to have control over your pain, to test your numbness.
Depression is self-medication and addiction.
Depression is being thought of as weak, lazy, whiny, oversensitive, ungrateful, pessimistic.
Depression is missed opportunities, unreached potential.
Depression is chronic. Depression is episodic. Depression is triggered. Depression is learned. Depression is inherited.
Depression is emotional, psychological, chemical, hormonal.
Depression is any combination of these things, and sometimes all of them at once

I hope that this can help you understand those that you know who suffer from depression.  We are everywhere, so unfortunately it is most likely that you do know some of us.  I certainly don’t hope that you can relate to this, but if you can: I hope that you can take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and you are not to blame.

I hope that you get better, and I hope that I get better.

If we’re going to fight this thing, we need to understand it as best as we can.  And we need to fight it, because all that I can really say definitively is this: depression sucks.

[Contributed by Michelle K.]

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