Reading around a bit, I get the feeling that the word 'depression' seems to mean different things to different people, and I notice this has been a source of conflict between people who could otherwise empathize with each other, at least on the level of feeling an overbearing pain and despair, rather than argue the importance of 'moving on' or simply 'getting over it' when the other seems to resist or discount these tactics as offensive and useless.
I believe this is because there are two distinct meanings that can be gathered from the word 'depression'.
And I think that one's personal experience will tend to shape their initial perception of the word.
There are those that see it as a temporary state - an emotion. A powerful emotion brought on by severe circumstance. One that often lingers for a long while, but does eventually pass, and can be overcome with some willpower and support in a comparatively short time.
And in this case, if that is truly the ONLY source of the depression, then learning to move on is indeed sound advice.
Accepting the ups and downs of life is an excellent way to face down these learned fears head on, and overcome them.
However, this is not always the case. There is another definition to this word, that once again, is based on personal experience.
In this case I will speak from my experience - it may not be the same as all the others who suffer, but I want to try and shed a little light on a very difficult and complex subject.
To me, depression is no sulking despair over some painful moment in my life. It is not a temporary defeat at having failed to achieve something, though it can certainly make such events more painful.
To me, depression is a baffling injection of pain or despair into life, that can be absurdly disproportionate to what could otherwise be simple problems, or little bumps in the road. Or sometimes for no reason at all - pain, despair, hopelessness, a loss of the sense of value to any other living being, for no reason, or for ridiculous reasons.
A little voice in my head that whispers to me how worthless I must be, how broken or defective I must be. And to those who have not felt this irrational despair - this uninvited intrusion into their mind, it can be hard to see more than the results. The severe damage and pain caused by an invisible force, seemingly all brought on by the often painfully visible, simple, or what could easily be seen as 'unreasonable' triggers to such an adverse reaction.
A pin drops, and a world is shattered, and the only logical conclusion available is not the invisible claws of some insidious demon, clawing away at the edges of the mind, but the observable experience, and the word that seems to mean simply: the painful emotions brought on by hard times.
Let's say it's the mosquito that wakes a bull in a china shop.
And all that can be seen is the mosquito and the resulting destruction.
It might seem a bit ridiculous if you have no knowledge of the bull.
It's not always easy to tell what sort of depression one may be dealing with until you get to know the person experiencing it.
That is because this monster can easily disguise itself as something else. If something severely horrible happens to someone, I think it's safe to say there will be some level of pain or sadness. I think emotional pain is likely for both those who suffer from this disease, and those who do not, in the case of severe trauma. So it can often disguise itself and shift blame to the individual struggling to take their mind back, when it takes them much more effort or time to recover. Because there is often no perceptible source for the additional pain present for one who suffers from this chronic malfunction, it can be easy to attribute it to 'drama.'
To those who know only of the temporary feeling, it will often seem to be an over-reaction. Some will think that the sufferer is simply full of drama, or seeking attention, or perhaps they may simply be trying to jump on a bandwagon. (Occasionally this can be the case, which, while despicable to the degree of pretending to have cancer for attention, can be dangerous to confront. Should the presumption of pretending be incorrect, this can cause immense damage to someone who is genuinely suffering beyond their control.)
And all this can feed the monster no one else can see.
So the sufferer, possessed of a despair they cannot control nor reason away, hears the same words this darkness whispers from their peers: "You are a source of problems."
And thus their fears become manifest through the nature of the disease.
This makes it grow stronger, and the individual can become more lost in this dark maze they are trying to work out.
If you have told someone to just 'get over it' or to reason it away, please, consider what these words may mean to someone who, despite their desperate attempts to do just that, fall time and again to a beast that many, many people will tell them does not exist.
If you suffer from this wasting disease, know first that you are not alone, and that the fault for this malfunction is a thousand times more likely to be the fault of genetics, or trauma you could not defend yourself from. No one would choose this. Depression as a disease can be caused by more than genetics too - over many years, a mind can be warped by abuse or stress.
Just as it can take many years for the functions of the brain to fully develop, a significant disruption in that development, such as chronic depression, can take many years to overcome.
Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a gentle reminder someone is thinking of you, or to remember the good things that can so quickly slip away in the dark. With enough work, I believe one can begin healing, and learn at the very least how to defend themselves against this invasive disruption.
It takes a lot of time and work to re-program the brain to find ways around this, but it does seems to be possible.
A beautiful, stained glass window might only look like a worthless pile of broken glass when it has been crushed. But look for the potential in the broken, and understand that for some of us, it could take many, many years, and much work and support to 'just get over it,' and find all the pieces of our minds. Because what you can see, is the just tip of the ice-burg for some.
I still wonder sometimes if it's all in my head.
Perhaps it is a little too much information for those who have not experienced this incomprehensible feeling.
I often think I should not mention it, because it is likely to make others uncomfortable.
But maybe, just maybe, someone will read this, and find they are not the only ones who are trying to find their way in the dark.
Maybe someone, who has been understandably confused by this invisible killer, will at least be more able to spot the signs of it's presence.
It is not an easy topic to discuss openly, but maybe that can be changed over time.
I think understanding is the best way to make peace.
And I hope someday there will be no shame in admitting to such an affliction.
Imagine if the crippled were routinely ridiculed and blamed for being broken - it sounds absurd, doesn't it?
How appalling it would be, but I'm sure it's happened still.
I think it happens even more often for those who suffer from a much less tangible malady.
So I think this is one of those that needs to be made more visible.
Just please, when offering support, remember that being very sad for a time is much different than a persistent disruption of normal brain function, even though the results might appear similar.
It's sort of like how it wouldn't be very helpful to tell cancer patients you understand what they're going through, because you had a weird bump that you thought might be cancer once.
Clinical depression is one of many afflictions that is not easily discernible, because it can hide itself for years, or look very similar to an excess emotion - but it's not just a feeling that passes with time.
It is a disease that costs lives. And it uses the sufferer's hands to do it. I don't think suicide can be a rational decision when there is still hope.
And there is hope, but it will often be too dark to see that anymore.
I feel it is not something that should be kept a secret. It should not be a shameful thing. It feeds off shame and grows more powerful, and consumes the minds of people with so much potential.
I think with a little time, one can learn to discern between this disease, and the over-dramatic.
If all else fails, I think it's worth the risk of mistakenly catering to the overly dramatic, if there's a chance they actually suffer, and a kind word might lend them a spark of light in an otherwise very dark world.
And if you suffer, and hear only the uninformed judgements others decide on, remember they are about as accurate as anyone who talks about something they know nothing about.
It can be hard to learn about something that seems to make no sense.
But there is a pattern to it, and if you learn enough, you'll be able to spot it.
If you still feel lost, send me a note, and I'll try to offer a little direction or clarity.
I don't know all the answers, but that hasn't stopped me yet!