Depression and sadness are not the same thing. Repeat: They are not the same thing, you guys. Here's part of what makes them very, very different: Everybody gets sad from time to time. That's just part of being human. Your goldfish dies, or your DVR skips the season finale of Below Deck – you're going to shed a tear. It happens. But being depressed is different, which is something that still not everyone understands. Being depressed means having an actual illness, one that still attracts a great deal of stigma (although more and more people are talking about their own experiences with the illness and taking it out of the shadows and putting it into the light, which is awesome).
To be clear, from here on out, I am admittedly only speaking to my own experiences with depression. In no way do I think I can give voice to what everyone with depression goes through, or how they feel, because it's a very personal and unique thing. Yeah, depression is such a merciless chump that it can't even be one size fits all.
For most people, however, it feels something like this: When you're depressed, you'd give your eyeteeth in a gnarly blood ritual to even feel sad. Because when you're depressed, you don't feel anything at all, not even the sweet, crushing relief of sorrow. I've been depressed in the past, especially back in the day when my generalized anxiety disorder (wheee, I am a pleasure to know) reached an unmanageable point. At my lowest (when I bothered to get out of bed) you could have spent the day pelting me with donuts and urine and I would have been all, "Okay, this is a thing that is happening and I have no feelings about it," and not moved an inch.
The toughest thing about depression is that you can't "snap out of it." That makes it pernicious and awful to deal with – and not just for you, but for everyone around you. I've been lucky in my struggles. I have really understanding and decent friends and family. But that doesn't mean I haven't had to contend with some buttholes in my day. Let me share what they taught me with you. Here are 9 things you should never say to a person with depression.
1. "It's Just The Weather"
Yeah. Sometimes it is rainy outside. That can make people feel blue. But you know what makes people feel even bluer? The idea that their emotional state and mind are a flimsy silly thing controlled by arbitrary external factors like clouds. Way to brush off my situation, dude.
2. "Have You Tried Exercising?"
Does running away from you count? No, sure, I know exercise can produce endorphins. I'll get right on that – as soon I remember how shoes and pants work. Tell you what, why don't you start running now and I'll catch up later somewhere around never, sadist.
3. "You Don't Have Anything to Be Sad About"
That's true. Congratulations. You have literally DEFINED DEPRESSION. I am well aware that everything is going perfectly for me. That's why it's such a bummer that this chemical bubble in my head is preventing me from enjoying it and is also trying to blow up my life.
4. "It's All In Your Head"
Yup. That's true. Mental illness IS in my head. That's what makes it mental. The brain is capable of so many awesome things, and so many awful ones. Like take for example, the fact that your brain made you think it was okay to talk to me in such a terribly condescending way. That's an awful brain at work.
5. "I Was Depressed Once"
It's soooo easy to get away with turning a conversation with a depressed person into a personal bitching session, mostly because a person with depression doesn't have the energy to stop you from making something all about you. Sharing your experiences and making it clear that you get where someone is coming from is one thing, making someone else's experience of depression seem less than? Not cool.
6. "Medication Will Turn You Into a Zombie"
We're all entitled to our beliefs. You can be all Tom Cruise-esque and frown on the use of stuff like SSRIs if you want. That's fine by me. But having seriously considered walking into traffic and ending it all before I started Prozac and now, you know, being able to do stuff like blink and laugh at jokes, I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you.
7. "You're Just Being Dramatic"
There are definitely people who make actually having depression hard. These are people who claim to be "so depressed" as a mode of getting attention. Their piss poor immature behavior makes an impression, and it's not a good one. I've definitely had people roll their eyes at me thinking that my inability to shower was just a cry for attention. Spoiler alert: It was actually me trying to disappear.
8. "You Should Try Meditation!"
I go easy on people who think they are giving helpful advice. That's because when I am depressed I have to do things like remind myself to eat vegetables. I have absolutely been that friend who is all "go drink a green juice, man," because green vegetables can act as mood boosters. So when people have told me to try yoga or meditation, I grit my teeth and nod, understanding that they are just trying to sharing something that's worked for them with me. Keep in mind, this is also why I am still an ardent follower of GOOP, so maybe I am not to be trusted. Before giving someone with depression "helpful" advice consider, what works for you might not be for them and that's fine.
9. "I Think Depression Is Self-Indulgent"
Cool. I think you're an asshole. But seriously, people with loud negative opinions about your mental illness? They can go have a nice swim in a creek and never talk to me again. I don't run around rolling my eyes when they have the flu, do I? Depression is real, and so, sadly, are assholes.
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