This is a short article that I wish to get out there because it constantly irritates me about the many misconceptions regarding depression, what it is and who gets it. I want to begin by asking a simple question.
What is the difference between depression and food poisoning?
I’ll tell you.
With food poisoning you can phone in sick to work and your boss will allow you to have a day or two off with no questions asked. Have you ever tried to phone in sick with depression? I bet most of you haven’t, mainly because you just KNOW that your boss won’t believe you, let alone be ok with it.
So you make up a ‘real’ illness – you know, one that everyone can relate to
How about when your friend asks you how you are feeling today? With food poisoning you can straight out tell them what is wrong and you will get sympathy in return. Tell them you are feeling down and all you’ll probably get is a ‘well cheer up, it can’t be that bad’.
It’s at this point you fantasise about punching them in the face.
The media, bless ’em, do their best to paint any form of mental illness in a positive light. Explaining that depression, anxiety, addiction and anything related to those three are now legitimate diseases that deserve the same respect and attention as anything physical.
Well thanks but the last I heard, the brain was a part of the body, and a damn important one at that.
As long as we treat an illness of the brain as something different from the rest of the body then it will never receive the same amount of attention.
Unless you have experienced it, you can never truly understand
How many of you have a tail? You know, like a monkey. If you haven’t (which I hope is everyone), can you imagine what it is like to grip a branch or maybe just swing it back and forth? It’s impossible isn’t it?
We’ve never had one so that’s not surprising.
Depression is similar to that. If it’s something that you have never experienced then you can try as hard as you want, but you will never truly know what it feels like.
Are you having a bad day? Nope that’s not depression.
Are you bummed out because that girl/guy you like has just rejected your advances? Nope that’s not depression.
Have you spent all week in a foul mood because your favourite team has lost a cup final? Nope that’s not depression either.
It isn’t a change in mood related to a trivial life event. If your whole world is slowly being turned upside down because of what is happening inside your mind then you may well be depressed. If these thoughts have been present for several weeks or months then yes, you may be depressed.
There is a big difference between feeling down and having depression and this brings me to my next point.
You cannot just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘pull yourself together’
I like analogies so steady your hats because here comes another one.
Depression is like trying to run through water and being told to get over it is akin to suddenly being able to move like you can on dry land. It’s impossible. You can grit your teeth and attempt to get some momentum going but ultimately the density will prevent you from moving quickly.
When depression has its grip on you, life becomes water. The air around you becomes water, crushing you with its weight and even the simplest tasks become difficult. You feel sluggish, both mentally and physically and nothing can snap you out of it.
You have essentially become trapped inside your own prison and true access to your brain lies behind that locked door. Sometimes, briefly, you are allowed outside to stretch your legs but you know this is temporary. Eventually you will have to return to your cell and wait patiently for a time when you are given another opportunity to function like a normal member of society.
There is no choice in the matter. All we can do is take advantage of our good days and try to minimise the effect our bad days have on us.