Depression is a rather tricky word. People either avoid using it or use it too generously.
You probably know that I grew up in a Christian family. My dad’s the pastor of our church. That means I heard more than my share of messages about how much joy there is in a Christian’s life. There’s even this old charismatic song that starts out with a very memorable line.
“Ang buhay ng Kristiyano ay masayang tunay.”
(A Christian’s life is full of joy.)
Thus, in the very rare times when I said that I was sad loud enough for someone in our household to hear, I was shot down with this concept. It was like it wasn’t right for Christians to feel down.
The only problem was, I kept feeling that way.
Other people who are on the opposite spectrum as my elders throw the word depression away until it loses its meaning. A lot of that is expressed through social media. Who hasn’t read a post along these lines:
- They didn’t have the flavor I liked. I’m so depressed.
- That song/movie/picture is so depressing (with added feeling to the word “so”).
- So depressed, I’m crying alone. Huhu…
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you kids, but I don’t think being unable to eat your favorite donut and the normal low that follows that does NOT qualify as depression.
So, what is depression?
state marked by either a sad mood or a loss of interest in one’s usual activities, as well as feelings of hopelessness, suicidal ideation, psychomotor agitation or retardation, and trouble concentrating (p. 280, Abnormal Psychology, Nolen-Hoeksema)
Why am I writing this? It’s quite simple, actually. I want people to know and *cross fingers* understand what truly depressed people go through. If they can be more sensitive and learn to determine and distinguish depressed people, that would be even better. Because if I learned anything in my years of struggle with this affliction, it’s that we need all the help we can get.
So, here’s a few myths about depression and depressed people that you need to shake off of your mind.
1. Depression is not real.
If you believe this, you probably belong to the older generation. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this phrase. The first few happened when I was still very young (and undiagnosed) and I thought it was true. If you say this to me now, I’ll slap you.
Depression is VERY real. If you’re blessed enough to be one of those people who haven’t experienced it before, let me paint you a picture of how it feels like.
I bet everybody’s had a couple of gloomy days. They’re usually marked by dark clouds that cover the skies. These days follow a memorably sad event like the loss of someone. Do you remember yours?
Can you recall how heavy your heart was and how hard it was to get up? Do you remember how dark the sky was and how the sun refused to shine? Depression is a lot like that. Except for the fact that the dark clouds never go away.
2. Depressed people just don’t try hard enough.
I don’t think there’s anything more hurtful to say to someone struggling with depression than this.
We try. God know how hard I try to get over depression immediately after it sets in. Who wants to keep feeling like that?! I know I don’t, but that’s not enough. We stay depressed because we are unable to change how we feel, not be cause we don’t want to.
Some people think that we can just decide to stop being depressed and that will magically fix everything. Well, it doesn’t. I know because I tried starting my day chanting that it’s going to be okay and it made me feel even worse when it didn’t work.
3. They just need to find the solution to their problems.
Apparently, a lot of people still think that the reason why people get depressed is because of some unresolved problem that they are/aren’t aware of.
Looking back at my previous bouts, I can’t directly pinpoint the “problem/s” that sent me spiralling down. I also can’t recall having solved problems right before I felt better.
We don’t need big or real problems to be sad. We just are. Solving everything in our lives does not come with the promise that we’ll feel better afterwards.
4. Christians don’t get depressed and it’s byline, “Depression is a sin (or at least caused by one).”
I know this isn’t necessarily a positive advertisement for my decision to follow Christ, but I’m just being real.
When Christ saved me from sin and turned me into a new creation, He did not lobotomize, melt, and pour me into a cast of what a Christian is expected to be. Life and its struggles remain very real to us, Christians.
We still have problems. We ride the same rollercoaster of emotions. The only difference is the promise that I can do all things through Christ. That includes going through and triumphing over depression.
5. You just have to leave them alone and they’ll get over it.
Yes, there are times when depression fades into the background without any help, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, depressed people need someone to listen to them. Most of the time, depressed people just need someone to be with them.
Take note that I didn’t say that we need someone to give us advice. You don’t even have to speak. We just need a reassuring presence in our lives.
Most depressed people have been hurt by someone before. Maybe it was by someone who told them the first four items listed above. That may be the reason why they are hesitant when it comes to putting faith in someone. They may be very secretive about their condition. They may even be very vocal in asking you to stay away, but that doesn’t mean that leaving them alone and neglecting them is right.
Speaking from experience, I can say that someone hanging out with me saved my life a couple of times. Hugs and reassuring pats on the back can also do wonders.
Depressed people need to know that there’s someone who cares for them. They need to hear it and believe it.
6. Depressed people look the part.
This is by far the most dangerous myth in the list. Not all depressed people wear black clothes and black make up. I would even go as far as saying that not all slashers are depressed. Slashers who flaunt their wounds in order to get attention have a much lower risk of suicide than the seemingly normal teens.
By now, I’m a master of appearing normal. Years of practice taught me that. Even in my darkest times, I could still muster the strength to pretend like everything’s good if I really have to.
It’s also incorrect to assume that depressed people are not achievers. Good grades are not equivalent to positive self-image. If there’s one thing non-achievers are better at, it’s coping with failure. Achievers with depressive tendencies can jump the ledge for reasons as minute as failing a test.
So, shake those stereotypes from your mind. We are not always the one hanging out by themselves on a dark corner somewhere. We may be your best friend who tells the best jokes. We may be that happy-go-lucky pal who keeps telling you to “Just chill.” We can be anyone.
What’s the point of all this?
It’s quite simple, actually. Be kind to everyone. Be generous with your ears, your shoulder, and with encouragement. Be that friend who asks “How are you doing?” and waits for the real answer.
You may not know it, but doing these things can just save someone’s life.
And that’s my two cents on that.