I wrestle with depression. Not only does this dysfunctional brain chemistry run in my family, but life has handed me some tough rounds over the past few years.
Notice that I chose the words “I wrestle with depression” and not “I suffer from depression.” I am struggling against it. I think being depressed is about as fun as being force-fed horse droppings while hanging upside down in freezing rain. I don’t want to be this way. I am not choosing to sit idly by while depression devours my joy. So I’d appreciate it if Team Happy would cut me some slack.
Some individuals are better equipped than others to sit with people in their sadness. If I open up to someone and their first response is any variation of “There are people much worse off than you,” I am immediately clued in to the fact that they are not emotionally equipped to understand depression. They might be someday, once they have experienced some traumatic loss of their own, but when I’m struggling to maintain an even keel of my own emotions, I don’t also have the emotional energy to help others learn how to deal with me.
Depression can bring with it a component of feeling trapped in your own head and at war with yourself, which can be perceived as a form of self-centeredness, causing the uninitiated to the Dark Night of the Soul to respond with comments like, “Why don’t you just fix your attitude?” Yes, I’ll get right on that. Go-go-gadget-attitude-fixer! What? I’m still depressed? Darn!
I have been accused of being overly self-oriented, but this trite response to my emotional seclusion belittles feelings that I do not know how to control or manage. Comments like this make me feel badly about feeling badly. So stuff it, Team Happy. I already feel badly about feeling badly without your condescension.
Often when people are uncomfortable, they throw out platitudes like, “Just stay positive!” (with the implied accusation that I am failing miserably at something that comes naturally to them). It always amazes me when Team Happy tells me, as if it had never occurred to me before, to “Just smile!” Platitudes don’t cure depression. They trivialize depression.
Here are my Top 10 Favorite (least favorite) Platitudes for all my fellow depressed homies out there:
- Fix your attitude.
- Happiness is a choice.
- It’s all in your head. You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.
- Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
- I think you want to feel this way.
- Cheer up! It’s a beautiful day! Go out and have some fun!
- When you’re down on yourself, you’re not much fun to be around.
- You have so many things to be thankful for. Why are you depressed?
- You can make the choice for or against depression; it’s all in your hands.
Here’s to making the choice not to strangle the next person who tells me to make the choice to be happy.
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Aurora, I didn’t know. I’ve often felt like I’ve had depression, because of how down about myself I’ve felt before, but I know I don’t because of things I’ve read or been told by people like you who actually have it. As you know, I’m not from Team Happy, I’m more of Team Bitter, but I have heard how hard depression can be. I feel for you A, and I wish there was something I could do other than pray for. Just know that I will never be one that will tell you to “Pull up your bootstraps! Get positive!”
Thanks, Team Bitter. I really appreciate your prayers and encouragement! Even just that – the intangibles of supportiveness – makes a huge difference in my mental and emotional state! My mom keeps saying that once I get married and have that lifelong encourager to go home to, I’ll be a happier person. On the one hand, I hope she’s right. On the other hand, that seems to be putting undue pressure on any potential future mate.
I’m sure your mom is awesome, but it doesn’t matter how awesome the person you will marry is, they won’t be able to bring “cure” your depression. It is only partly mental and another part chemical. On a lighter note, it sounds like you have three hands.
In the Western world we’ve really got this idea that everyone is supposed to feel happy all the time. It’s so prevalent, I can’t tell the difference anymore between depression and people who are feeling sad, grieving, frustrated. Many people these days feel something like anxiety and leap right to now having an anxiety disorder. Or we’re sad so now we have depression. That kind of worries me because when we repress normal healthy emotions, that’s when we really do get ourselves sick.
These so called negative emotions have worth and value, but they also often have something to teach us. I know in women, it’s pretty common to feel depression in response to repressed anger. Lots of times we have no idea what we’re mad about, but we’ve ignored it for so long, it’s making us depressed. Then people come along and tell us to be happy, when what we really need to do is slug somebody, at least metaphorically.
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Repressed? My friends and family wish it were so!
Just call me Bruce Banner.
I agree with you here, there are so many people who don’t understand what depression is. They seem to think that it can be changed with positive thinking. Even I didn’t fully understand this until my Father experienced crippling depression for a couple of years due to a hormonal imbalance. He still struggles with it today, but its much better than before. And hearing others tell him that it was his fault he was struggling made me really upset. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
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Ugh. Gag me with a bouquet of daises. Team Happy can jump off a cliff.
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