Depression is NOT Sadness

As someone who has been through a major depressive episode, I can assure you that depression is nothing like sadness.  Sadness is a normal emotion that people feel at times.  Sadness comes and sadness goes.  At times, sadness is the least of the feelings or emotions that someone in a depressive state may be experiencing.  In fact, I believe that one small part of the lack of understanding is the way people overuse the word “depression”.  People use it synonymously with the word “Sad”.  How many times have you heard someone say, “This weather is depressing?” or “I missed the show, I’m so depressed”.  This significantly diminishes the severity and debilitating nature of depression.  Would we ever describe the weather as “Cancerous”?

Depression often times manifests itself in a physical manner.  I have heard depression described as a ‘numbness’ rather than a sadness.  One therapist I saw described it as dealing with the flu or a traumatic brain injury.  People experiencing depression may not be able to get out of their bed for days on end.  I was lethargic.  Often, it felt as though I was trying to move through quicksand.  Many people experience a significant gain or loss of weight.  I lost over forty pounds and often times was unable to eat when I was going through my major depression.  I could not sleep, sometimes getting no more than ten or twelve hours of sleep for the week.  Although I couldn’t sleep, I wanted to remain in the safety of my bed, rather than be awake and at a loss of what I should be doing.  I had uncontrollable crying bouts, mostly contained to the evenings after struggling to “hold it together” for the entire day.  The depression impacted my cognition and memory.  I got lost when driving with my daughter to pick up a carpool friend who lived only blocks from our house.  I knew exactly where they lived and had been there on a number of occasions, yet I had to pull over and map their address on my phone.  Depression is often accompanied by a sense of guilt, particularly in cases in which there is no known trigger.  In my case, I still cannot put my finger on what caused me to go into a major depression, or any depression for that matter.  I had thoughts such as, “Why can’t I just be happy?”.  I was worried to leave the house and struggled, as a typically very outgoing person, to engage with others.  In my case, there were gradually increasing suicidal thoughts that I had eventually created a plan for.

I’m not sure if people who have not been through a major depressive episode can truly understand how it feels and how incredibly debilitating it can be.  I hope that people begin to consider how they use the word “depression” and try to gain a better understanding of what it means for someone to be depressed.

As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged!

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6 thoughts on “Depression is NOT Sadness

  1. keepingsteady21

    Totally agree. The word is used too much. It’s an illness not a term, it’s not a joke or a description of something false. Totally agree though..

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  2. Courage

    Beautiful sentence: “Could we ever describe the weather as ‘Cancerous’?” Thank you, Al. ~ Yes, this condition we call “depression” is as physical as it gets. I think there’s an overemphasis on its behavioural expressions — thus much of the stigma, ignorance, and shaming. I was born with this condition, due to an eight-week premature birth. Am now in my late 50s. A lifetime of exploring and excavating — often in tandem with some wise mentors, doctors, and other guides — have brought me to understand depression as a whole-person condition, affecting everything from the metabolic to the existential. The metabolic: basal and autonomic functions are affected — everything from blood pressure and body temperature (both low) to a body that sometimes forgets to breathe, to digestion and neuroelectrical conductivity (slow). The existential: depression is not only a dark night of the soul, but a soul gone dark.

    Yes, there are similarities to brain injury — I’ve experienced this as well, and the loss of basal vitality in both is harrowing. A brain injury is also a being-injury.

    We ignore environmental, social, developmental, relational factors to our peril.

    Alarming to note that major depression is now considered the world’s second-most cited source of disability, according to the World Health Organization.

    Best medicines that I know of? Wise choices and structures re: diet, sleep, movement; insistence on noticing and adding to the world’s beauty; loving relation and touch; kindly medical care that may include but is not limited to drug treatments; addressing the underlying factors (so often: trauma and untended sorrow/grief/mourning); taking in light; a daily walk; reading, as C.S. Lewis said, “to know that we are not alone.”

    Reading your words here has given me a little of that medicine today. I wish you, and all of us, well.

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    1. allevin18 Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. I’m inspired that my post has given you some of the ‘medicine’ that was helpful for you today! You sound like a very strong woman…and always remember (as you had mentioned), you are not alone! Al

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