10 Things Depression is NOT – A Primer for the Un-depressed (And Everyone Else)

If you're reading this, chances are you either live with depression, or you know someone who does. For me, it's both.

The image above – it’s a self-portrait. I drew it years ago, but the experience it depicts has been a constant companion throughout my life.

I’ve lost more than a few people to suicide as a result of depression. In most cases – nobody even knew they were suffering until it was too late. And I've personally walked that razor's edge more times than I can count.

Many of my friends, family, clients, and community members experience depression – even if they don’t recognize it, or won’t admit it for fear of being judged, ridiculed, misunderstood, or shamed. We need to talk about this. We need to do it now.

For those of us living with depression, one of the most hopeless and isolating experiences is that of feeling profoundly alone, unseen and misunderstood by well-meaning friends, family, and professionals who have never personally experienced depression. For those of us who have never experienced depression, one of the most frustrating experiences is that of seeing someone we love suffering, and not knowing how to help. I hope this article will help someone understand, or be more compassionate, or be able to offer better support, or not feel so alone …

10 Things Depression is NOT:

1. Depression is NOT something you can simply “snap out of” or “get over”. Have you ever been sick? I bet it was awful. I bet you really wanted it to stop. I bet you did everything you could to make the symptoms go away as quickly as possible. I bet you knew what the sickness was called. I bet you looked it up online, and could name all the symptoms, and probably had some ideas or theories as to how you got sick in the first place. And I bet that no matter how bad it was, no matter how miserable you were, no matter how much support you had, no matter how desperately you wanted to get better – you weren’t able to simply “snap out of it”. You couldn’t just will the illness away. Depression is like that too.

2. Depression is NOT the same as normal sadness, discouragement, grief or anger.

One of the hardest things to describe to someone who has never experienced genuine depression, is the difference between depression and normal hard-times. It’s like trying to describe the difference between choking on water that went down the wrong way, and actually drowning… Depression is full-on dragged-under-can’t-breathe-can’t-swim-can’t-see-the-surface-lungs-filling-with-water-oh-my-god-please-somebody-help-me-why-can’t-you-see-me-i’m-dying-all-alone kind of drowning. And it’s relentless. And even when you don’t feel terrible, you don’t feel good. And it doesn’t matter how great your life is, or how many people love you, or how much money you have, or how much you know about yourself, or psychology, or spirituality, or medicine. Depression erases you. Depression snubs you out. Depression sneaks in under cover of the night, and ties you down, and covers you in cement,