Depression is a liar.
I know this because I’ve lived with clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, for the majority of my life.
When you live with depression, it’s hard not to believe these lies because they are so believable—especially during your lowest lows.
“You’re worthless,” it whispers, and you whisper back, “I know.”
Many confuse sadness with depression, and while sadness is a symptom of depression, the majority of people who feel sadness recover from it quickly. Those of us who battle depression live with a quiet sadness that remains with us even during our best days.
You may feel sad after a rough day at work, an argument with a loved one, or because you’re genuinely just feeling sad for no reason at all. Those feelings will pass quicker (usually with some resolution that swings in your favor) and you’re fine until something occurs to resurrect that feeling. The melancholia a depressed person feels is persistent—it can strike with no warning, it gives no answers, and it doesn’t go away…until it does.
The most difficult part about having depression is the lack of understanding from the outside world. We clam up, we isolate and withdraw, we are fearful of how you will react to our honesty, our true selves. Whether or not we have experienced an unwelcome reaction to our emotions or not, the lies of depression—and accompanying anxiety—force us to believe the worst of every situation. So we keep quiet, which forces an already uncomfortably lonely situation to become even lonelier.
Here are some of the things depression tells us:
We are worthless.
No—not at all the truth. We are worth so much and every minute of our lives is valuable. We were put here for a reason and we need to believe that.
We are a burden.
This is a big one. Because we ruminate so frequently about our worthlessness, often times many of us retreat further into ourselves in the fear that we do nothing but create problems for those around us. Many of us will even feel like our loved ones are better off without us because of how we feel. We find it difficult to reach out because we fear being pitied, misunderstood, condescended. If we can’t handle the way we feel, no one else will want to either.
This is bullsh*t.
No matter what, there will always be someone who wants to listen, someone who wants to help. It may not be who we want it to be or how we feel we need it but we never will be a burden to those who love us and we’ll probably be surprised at the kindness of strangers.
We are hopeless.
Perhaps the people in our lives have knocked us down, time after time. Perhaps we are questioning our path in life—this does not make us hopeless. The pain we feel will not always be this intense; there will be a greater purpose that will find us if we just don’t give up.
There is always hope, even if we can’t see it.
We’re alone and this world is better off without us.
No matter how dark it gets, no matter how much we want to just rid ourselves of the pain we feel, we must never, ever, give up. The truth is, we’re not alone. People need us here, even the very people that trigger the pain we feel. If the pain becomes too much to bear, there are people we can reach out to, people who—without even knowing us—need us here.
In the entirety of the world there are currently 121 million other people battling depression which equates to 1 in every 10 people in America alone. Odds are there is someone out there that can relate, listen, and help. There are hotlines to call, chat rooms to join, support groups and private groups on Facebook made for folks just like us who feel so incredibly alone.
We are not alone. We are needed here but much more than that—we are wanted. Suicide is a tragic side effect of having depression and for many of us, it is a reoccurring thought; something we have may have attempted but it’s not the answer. Suicide is never the answer.
Being a friend, just simply loving someone with depression, can be incredibly difficult at times. It’s hard to explain our lethargy, our inability to see the bright side of things all the time. It gets overwhelming when we can’t sleep for days or weeks, even months at a time, and you tell us that we need to get some sleep or when the opposite happens and we sleep too much you say, “just get up and be productive.”
We want to be productive—more than anything. We want to be a participant in life but when we open our eyes and they are filled with tears for seemingly no reason at all, it become difficult to get through a day—even more so when those tears come out of nowhere in the most inconvenient of places.
Sometimes, the strongest thing we do all day is get out of bed.
We expend all of our energy by simply walking to the bathroom to brush our teeth (and sometimes don’t even have the strength to do that). This tiredness is difficult to explain. It just is—don’t judge us, but try and help. Push us to talk and don’t make us feel small because you can’t relate. If you don’t know what to say, just listen—sometimes a quiet friend by our side means more than all the words in the world.
It is incredibly difficult to love us but I promise it is worth it; the best thing you can do is to not give up on us. When you do, it triggers us and allows us to feed into the lie of how horrible we are.
Not only is depression a liar, it can be frightening.
In my own experiences, the most difficult times lay in fighting against those lies. I believed every one of them and often times the people in my life perpetuated the things my brain convinced me of.
From a young age I recall feeling that I would die by suicide—not because I wanted the people who hurt me to have won, but because the amount of pain I felt, even as an adolescent was so tremendous I knew eventually I wouldn’t be able to carry the weight anymore. People told me that I had the power to change the things I was unhappy about; I interpreted that to mean I would be able to make the decision to end the pain.
I tried therapy, which helped some, and medication which only made certain symptoms worse. I was fearful of opening up to those around me because my environment had taught me to minimize my feelings and traumas. It’s something I still cope with as an adult. Since I was told that my problems don’t define me and everyone else’s reactions were so nonchalant, I thought that the events of my life, my pain, couldn’t be as bad as I believed. In the end, I actually stigmatised myself by denying that I had a mental illness.
From nine years old I recall believing I was a failure—and those around me made me feel as they agreed. My mind told me I was worthless, unworthy of love by everyone, that I was unintelligent, unattractive and a burden to everyone I love because I couldn’t feel their love back which, in my depressed mind, looped into no one loving me. It was difficult to get out of bed because in the safety of my bedroom, with the lights off, nothing and no one could hurt me.
As I entered my teen years, I grew angry. I didn’t understand what was going on in my mind and the feeling of being unwanted by the world grew exponentially. I briefly became violent and eventually found drugs. At first, self-medication seemed to work more efficiently than mood stabilizers, but the amount of time I spent alone crying (writing about my misery, thinking about the things that happened to me and that were said to me), just increased. It wasn’t until I was 14 years old and had an intervention that it dawned on me my coping skills weren’t healthy. Two years later, at age 16, I made the decision to try sobriety and 16 years later, at 32, I am proud to say I haven’t used drugs since, as an escape or otherwise.
But still the feelings of depression persisted.
I refused to tell anyone what I was feeling but unwillingly continued therapy where I was given newer and updated diagnoses: PSTD, generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. My mind couldn’t cope with the depression and created even more problems.
Between the ages of 12 and 30, I attempted suicide a total of 10 times because eliminating myself would not only cure the world of me—it would rid me of my problems. Every single time I told someone I was depressed, that I wanted to die, I was invalidated, not taken seriously and ultimately, believed the lie that I was a burden.
During my early twenties I found myself in an relationship that was both physically and emotionally abusive; my boyfriend pushed all of my weakness buttons. One of my biggest issues was that I was convinced his abuse was love and that if I left him (even though I didn’t want to keep being hit or put down all the time) no one else would ever love me again.
When I finally did leave, I realized I needed to focus on me: my issues, my future, and my health—both mental and physical. Therapy was my saving grace during the year that followed and allowed me to embrace who I was without shame. Still, I could not admit or agree that I suffered with depression. “You’re fine,” my mind told me, and I believed it.
In my late twenties I became involved with someone who openly battled with bipolar disorder and, later on, substance abuse. A part of me felt relieved that I finally found someone who would understand when I couldn’t get out of bed, when I was too sad to function for no reason, or when I simply wasn’t ok. I never had to say anything and it was the first time I realized it was ok to be myself without hiding—he embraced the light and the dark and loved me anyway. More than that—he pushed me to fight harder. But his mental health became more important to me as he began attempting suicide, needed hospitalization, and started abusing heroin to self-medicate. He was my best friend and I needed him to live as much as he needed me too.
During one hospitalization, a psychiatric nurse stopped me and addressed how good I was around the patients. She asked if I felt I belonged there too. Never had anyone said something to me like that but the truth was, she was right. I really felt I needed help but was too scared to ask for it because of the ways people had treated me in the past. While my boyfriend and I split up, we remained the best of friend.
The next person I dated ended up dying by suicide. It wasn’t until after his death that I realized how much I had let depression control me. I needed to stop believing the lies because if I didn’t, it would ultimately kill me and the truth was, I want to live.
It’s not easy.
In fact, it’s miserable trying to stop those thoughts but I do it. Every day when I open my eyes, I force those thoughts aside. I climb out of bed even though every part of me hurts; I turn on the lights, I brush my teeth, I eat, I smile.
Throughout the years, I have created a mask that I wear every day so that the people in my life believe I am happy. I tell myself if I appear happy to the outside world long enough maybe I’ll believe it too and eventually will be—but even that’s not enough.
I talk. I talk SO much. Telling people about our pain weakens it and I refuse to let it keep controlling me. I talk to therapists, friends, even strangers. Making another person smile or laugh, even if they are laughing at my weirdness, keeps me going; it makes me happy. Even if my mind tells me I’m wrong, I know I am strong, beautiful, intelligent, cared about, loved and needed. I tell myself those things every day as many times as I need to hear them.
I have a purpose, I am worth something.
What people with depression need more than anything is encouragement and love; understanding and acceptance. We need to be reminded, sometimes over and over again, that we matter, we are needed, we are wanted, we are loved.
Depression isn’t something that can be simply shut off because you don’t want to deal with it or think we are being overly dramatic. For many of us, it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Telling us to snap out of it is the equivalent of telling someone with cancer to stop being sick.
Sometimes our life circumstances trigger depressive episodes; sometimes they are the main cause of it.
If you are experiencing depression yourself, try and get your loved ones to read up on depression—read up on it yourself. There are many effective and helpful tools for you to try and manage depression without relying on medication (but remember, it’s ok to take medication if it helps).
Even when your mind says there is no help for you, remember there is. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to talk about what you’re feeling. Talking truly does save lives and there is always help available if you seek it out.
To my fellow depression sufferers, remember this:
You are beautiful and unique. You have a lot to offer this world. You are wanted, you are needed but more than that—you are loved (by me!). No matter how dark it gets, you will always have a light in side of you. Feed that light and watch it grow. Never give up. You are powerful, you are strong, you are brave. How do I know? Because you’re still here and you’re reading this right now; that means you haven’t given up. Most importantly, it’s ok to not be ok. You can and will get through this. No matter how undeserving you may feel you are, you deserve to be happy. There is help out there.
There is hope. There is always hope.
You’re not alone.
I speak these words because they are my truths and they may be your truths too.
Though our stories may differ, they are all important. I chose to keep fighting and I hope you do too.
Author: Danielle Glick
Editor: Sarah Kolkka