depression myths and truths

MYTH: Depression is just sadness.
TRUTH: Depression is nothingness.

Depression is not merely "feeling sad." It's an absence of feelings entirely, as darkness is the absence of light. Things you once cared about deeply now seem like shallow concerns; bonds of love, friendship, and family feel insubstantial, and even hatred seems dimmed down to indifference. Life, which used to bloom with color and energy, now feels gray and deflated. Even sadness itself feels corny or artificial--tears simply won't come, or they come for the most random of reasons and leave you feeling soggy and tired but without relief.

MYTH: Depressed people are selfish/emo/entitled/narcissistic.
TRUTH: Depressed people are suffering from an illness.

I can see how easy it would be to describe a depressed person's actions as selfish, "emo," entitled, narcissistic, etc., but it's simply not the case. Depression begins as a invisible parasite, sucking the mental and emotional life out of its victim, and just as a person with a parasite begins to waste away physically, so the depressed person begins to waste away emotionally and mentally.

During my worst depressed periods, I felt that my connections to friends and family were unraveling, that I couldn't be a good friend or family member anymore because life felt so empty of purpose. This fed the existing loop of self-hatred which I've dealt with all my life, and so I became increasingly convinced that because I had "failed" my friends and family, I was a horrible person and didn't deserve to live.

Looking back on it, I can see the disease wrapping around those thoughts, like a boa constrictor coiling around its prey. These thoughts are mental and emotional poison--and we don't treat victims of poisoning by telling them "Quit being so selfish! You'll get better if you just stop being so emo and entitled!!" We must treat depression as the illness it is rather than calling it a personality flaw.

MYTH: Having depression means you're weak/it's your fault.
TRUTH: Having depression simply means you're human, and it's not your fault.

Our society treats mental illness very differently from physical illness, and yet there is actually no difference; the mind suffers from diseases just as easily as the body does. Blaming a depressed person for their depression is like blaming a cancer patient for having cancer--it makes NO SENSE. Depression grows in the mind and crowds out healthy thoughts with diseased thoughts, just as cancer cells grow in the body and replace healthy tissue with tumors.

MYTH: You can understand and cure someone else's depression just by reading a lot about it.
TRUTH: If you have never experienced depression, you will never fully empathize.

Like most other things in life, experience is the best teacher when it comes to depression. While I and other depression survivors can tell others what our suffering is like, the non-sufferer will still not quite grasp the depth and pain of it.

If you are a non-sufferer and have a loved one with depression, the best thing you can do is to BE THERE. Never let them be alone too long; constantly reach out to them and let them know how much you love them and want them around; most importantly, get them professional help. Don't try to cure it yourself or tell them how to pull themselves out of it--let the doctors take care of that. We depression sufferers need to know that we still have connections to this world, and that we aren't useless/horrible people.