December 24, 2015

Depression is Not Sadness.


Depression is not sadness. It is emptiness.

Depression is not being unhappy, it is being numb.

It is not anger or desperation or fear or even loneliness (though it is also all of these things.)

Depression is not a feeling. It is nothingness. A void where nothing grows or changes, where time does not exist, where dark is the only color, where no one else lives.

Depression is not a state of mind, it is a place. It’s a place we stumble into sometimes unwittingly, a black hole yawning widely on an otherwise normal day. Once there, as in a corn maze in an unlit night, we can wander endlessly, perhaps never finding the way out. The black hole becomes seductive, it seeps into our bones, and we learn that it is us and we are it, and it was the ordinary day that was the fiction.

“Snap out if it!” we say to depressed people, as if our wish that they feel okay, feel normal, really could be enough to fix the problem. “Why are you depressed? You have everything in the world going for you! You’re young, you’re beautiful, you’re healthy, you have people who love you.”

“True,” comes the mumbled response, and for just a moment, guilt tries to pile in on the nothingness and make it somethingness, but then it recedes again, sucked back into the hole.

“How can I help you? What do you need?” we cry out, frustrated. On the other side of depression, action is always the cure. “Take a walk, call a friend, just get up and move!”

But depression doesn’t release it’s victims so easily. It lays upon them like an enormous leaden x-ray apron, pressing down, slowing heart rates to a weak thump thump, turning thoughts to formless shadows that sit, as a stone sits at the bottom of a stagnant, muddy river.

Even if we understand depression, when we are not ourselves in it, the depressed are as astronauts untethered from their ship, floating and paralyzed in space, unreachable, lost. How do we cross that gaping void which reaches out in all directions without losing the way ourselves?

Things that help:

Be with a depressed person in silence. Lay down next to them. You can even read a book silently to yourself. Don’t focus on them, just be there. Let them absorb your energy. Sometimes that is enough.

Don’t tell a depressed person what to do. Just say you love them, even when they are in the dark place. Say it quietly and bravely. Don’t get upset if they can’t say it back.

Remember for the depressed person, even if they can’t remember it themselves (and they probably can’t), that this will not last forever, though it seems as if it will. Do not tell them this, simply sit in knowing.

If the depressed person will allow it, tenderly brush back their hair. If your touch is rejected, try not to take it personally—it is simply too overwhelming in that moment. You’ll get another chance.

Depression is a disease of isolation and paralysis—its grip is strong, its nature shy. Like a feral cat, it doesn’t respond well to clumsy intervention. But like such a cat, a patient heart and a steady hand can sometimes be the magic spell that tames it, until the next time night falls.





F*ck You, Depression.

The Side of Depression & Anxiety that No One Talks About.


Relephant bonus:



Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: goldilockphotography at Flickr 



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Irene Misiewicz Apr 27, 2019 10:04am

Very well said!! Thank you for explaining in words what many struggle to express. After the loss of my two adult sons, depression has become the unwelcome visiter in my life that just won’t leave. It’s frustrating when you know what should and could be done but that nagging feeling deep inside just won’t let you. Again, thank you for your article.

Inga Mar 13, 2016 8:39am

Dear Erica & dear peeps,
Thank you for the article! However, I am trying to find the way out from the things I am experiencing now.. Maybe any of you have an idea or can share a similar experience? I am not sure which came first in my case – depression or my chronic 24/7 headaches. I have always been sensitive etc, but I would not say I had a pure depression as such before. However, now I have these continuous headaches and on top I am continuously sick with a complicated cold. I am seeing a psychotherapist, but I feel I also need/want to do something on my own to get out of this all. In all the articles how to cope with depression naturally it is written – go meet friends, go exercise, travel, try to have fun, etc. And I do agree with that! I wanna do that all! I know that would do good for me. Until now I always helped myself in this way! But how can I do this all when I am experiencing this physical pain, continuously having a cold and so no energy at all? Exercise – no energy, friends – 100% preoccupied with my pain, etc etc. Or is it that I am just lying to myself?? I am even not working anymore because of my headaches. I only see doctors and my four walls in the room. My psychologist says that all my physical symptoms come from depression that I had/have. But I question if only those sessions with her and not doing anything on my own are going to help me!? I would be glad, dear people, if anybody of you have any suggestions to share..

Dee Mar 13, 2016 12:37am

This is an amazing description of the black hole some of us fall into. It took me SO long to dig myself out of my dark place..so many tears..so many numb days…I wasted so many years feelong empty.. it took a long time but the feeling you get when you finally realize that the sadness you felt was actually depression and that it wasnt you giving up on life and the endless thoughts quiet down… and you finally see the sun and want to be productive and you can imagine a future (I’m rambling) but I loved this article… it hit a chord… bottom line. . Imy happy finally I feel normal ..it takes days months years sometimes but it does get better. .so to anyone who reads this…from experience I’ll tell you …NEVER GIVE UP. .DONT GIVE UP. .. KEEP DIGGING UNTIL YOU FIND YOUR WAY OUT…It’s worth it…trust.

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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed psychotherapist, registered yoga teacher, published author, and imperfect mom. Visit her at PsycheFinder, her new website—the only site that finds your mental health professional for you. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.