Dear Friends Who Don’t Fully Understand Depression

Dear Friends Who Don’t Fully Understand Depression,

You might think you know what depression is, but do you really? According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a “medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you act, and the way you think.” A lot of people toss around the expression, “I’m so depressed,” but to those that actually suffer from the illness, it can be a bit annoying to hear someone loosely toss the expression around when they really have no idea what suffering from major depression can be like. Something I’ve learned about depression after battling with it for over five years is that it’s an all-consuming feeling. It’s not just a “here and there” or “sometimes” feeling. It’s not just when I don’t want to do something I know I should be doing. It’s an all-the-time feeling of sadness and “blah” for simpler explanation. It hit me that I finally understood what depression was when hanging out with my friends seemed more like an obligation than fun.

I’ve put together a list of things I wish my friends knew or things I wish I could tell them to help them understand where I’m coming from sometimes:

1. Sometimes, I don’t want to go out and be around other people - I just want to stay in and stay in bed or spend some time alone.

2. I keep a lot of my feelings about being sad hidden, because I don’t want to be seen as the “sad” girl.

3. I know that people get tired of me being “sad,” which is why I try to hide that side of me.

4. Depression isn’t just a mood. It’s not necessarily caused by one action - sometimes it’s just a permanent state of mind that people get into.

5. Depression can make you feel disconnected from friendships and relationships, so don’t take it personally if you feel like I’m being distant.

6. Depression tends to make people self-obsessed. It can make people forget that others have problems, too.

7. Those with depression often have other mental illnesses that can interfere with depression or make it worse.

8. Depression can make you uninterested in things and people you once found interesting.

9. Depression doesn’t just go away with medication. It takes some people years to learn how to live with depression and usually takes a combination of different medications and talk therapy.

10. Just because someone seems happy on the surface and laughs and has fun at parties, doesn’t mean they aren’t actually depressed.

11. People who suffer from depression aren’t lazy. We just have no motivation or ambition to do the things we know we should or once readily did.

12. Depression doesn’t always present itself in one clear cut way. It can have a lot of different causes and presentations. It’s not always sadness - it can be irritability, being withdrawn, or sometimes restlessness.

13. Even though you’re never alone, depression can amplify the feelings of loneliness.

14. If you want to be there for your friend with depression, be there for them. Don’t push solutions on them though, because chances are they already know the solutions available for them.

And lastly…

15. I’m not crazy. I’m learning how to deal with my emotions and find healthy outlets and coping mechanisms.