DEBUNKING DEPRESSION. Getting your facts straight about depression can definitely pay off—if not for you, then perhaps for somebody close
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not something you can fight with time, nor is it something you can defeat with willpower alone. Someone cannot simply think their way out of depression. It’s not like you can come up to people suffering from clinical depression and say: “Hey don’t be sad. Just be more positive in life,” and then they’ll be instantly cured. It’s not as easy as that.
After all, depression is not a choice. And saying that somebody suffering from depression simply needs to be more positive in life insinuates that it is their choice to see things in a negative way, which is very untrue. It’s also very unsettling that in this day and age many people still believe that depression is not a real illness, or even worse, that it is a flaw and a sign of weakness in someone’s character. It’s exactly this kind of thinking that led sufferers to believe that their condition is something to be ashamed about—and this, in turn, leads to a harmful path. So, first and foremost, let’s get our facts straight about this this sensitive topic.
Myth 1: It is all in your head
The first thing to understand about depression is that it is not “all in your head.” It is an illness that affects the entire body and not just the mind. And it’s not limited to fatigue, insomnia, headaches, digestive problems, chest pains or muscle aches. Many studies have shown that depression actually weakens the immune system, making sufferers more permeable to infection and diseases. What’s more, recent studies also begun to link depression with inflammation and oxidative stress (free radicals), claiming that when the body over-produces free radicals and is unable to get rid of them, these free radicals travels through the body and eventually trigger depression and anxiety.
Myth 2: It always has a reason
Another thing worth noting about depression is that it isn’t a form of justified misery. Depression is not always situational. It’s just there, without any inherent reason, pulling the sense out of anything you do and everything around you. It is this state of perpetual hopelessness, emptiness and, like walking around alone in an endless empty haze searching for something that you don’t even know. Even if somebody really tries to dig deep into the minds of a depressed person and find the root causing it, there may be nothing to find, because sometimes depression happens, simply, because it happens.
Myth 3: It is just sadness
Depression is also not the same as sadness. While sadness usually goes away after some time, depression is persistent. Suddenly everything becomes worthless, quality of sleep becomes distorted, feelings are abruptly lost and none of your old hobbies interest you anymore. So, to say that “everyone deals with that” or “I know how you feel” is ultimately demeaning.
Much in the same vein, exhorting somebody dealing with depression to “be thankful of what you have as others have it worse” is even less constructive. It’s bad enough that such a person feels bad about themselves, now we’re reprimanding their right to feel bad about themselves, creating an endless loop of bullying and self-hating.
Sometimes, it is even better to just acknowledge the condition without trying to help fix it. As Allie Brosh, author of “Hyperbole and a Half,” perfectly describes it: “It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.” This is why depression is not always something that can be treated with positivity and encouragement. “It isn’t always something you can fight back against hope,” Brosh elaborated. “It isn’t even something—it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it.”
BACK ON TRACK
There are, of course, ways to ease depression, but there is no known cure. It is also important to understand that depression differs for everybody (there are actually many types of depression, ranging from major depressive disorder to persistent depressive disorder, otherwise known as dysthymia) and there is no single way to deal with them all.
“It’s just there, without any inherent reason, pulling the sense out of anything you do and everything around you.”
That said, several studies showed that setting small goals everyday can help ease depression, even if it as simple as making one’s bed or brushing one’s teeth. As depression usually disrupts any kind of structure we have in our lives, smaller routines can be helpful. It is also important for sufferers to eat healthy—avoiding coffee or alcohol whenever possible—and get enough sleep. And, as hard as it is, a bit of exercise, even walking, can help as it triggers the body to release endorphins—the so-called “feel good” hormone. Finally, as cliché as it may sound, many studies have also shown that yoga is very beneficial for those looking to ease depression.
In the end, getting professional help is often the best path to take. True, while “talking things out” won’t necessarily heal depression, it won’t hurt to be heard by someone with a firm understanding of the subject.
Most of all, though, depression should never be an excuse for feelings of shame. Depression has no boundaries and does not discriminate. It knows no age, gender, race or status. Depression is, and will always be, a human condition.