Wait, you’re depressed? So why aren’t you always sad? Essay

News flash: depression and sadness aren’t synonyms. Now, Thesaurus.com might say otherwise, but treating depression as if its perpetual sadness is just another one of the many ways that the clinical condition of major depression is stereotyped and obfuscated. One of the most misguided, yet also most popular, depression fallacies is that depressed people are always sad. Rationally though, let’s think about it: is every depressed person constantly dressed in all black, with tear-smudged mascara marring a beautiful face with black streaks? Maybe for some people, but it’s undeniably an unfair assessment to make about depressed people as a whole. When I’m going through a depressive episode, you probably can’t tell. I hang out with friends; I crack jokes (and proceed to laugh at said jokes); I read books; I act exactly how you’d expect just about anyone to act – nothing unusual here. But what you can’t see is the internal turmoil. For me, at least, there’s this conflicting, contradictory internal pressure: pressure to be perfect, pressure to not let anyone see how I truly feel about myself and my life, pressure to confide my feelings in someone who will understand in order to keep myself honest, pressure to suppress these underlying, confusing emotions far, far away where they’ll never see the light of day, just so much unfounded pressure. Of course, since I seem perfectly fine, I’m caught in this vicious trap that only propagates the problem: if I don’t act “sad",” then I’m not really depressed, and no one will think I’m serious about it; on the other hand, if I begin to let my feelings out, then I’m ostracized and friendless and these feelings only get worse. So here I am, fronting. I put a mask on, even when I’m depressed and deeply hurting. When I’m drowning in hopeless misery, I send a Snapchat with a snarky caption; when I hate myself violently and wish I was dead, I grab lunch with friends, even though every bite I take is another reason to despise my very existence; when I realize I’m content, even just for a mere moment, I spend the next hour weeping of guilt because I don’t think I deserve to be. Depression definitely includes parts of sadness, but it is fundamentally not an all-or-nothing sort of thing: it’s a messy knot with innumerable distinct strands: exhaustion, low appetite, suicidal thoughts, social anxiety, apathy, and so many more. It’s a case-by-case basis, and what’s true for one person is rarely true for the next. That’s why it’s so important to create open lines of communication. If you’re trying to respond to someone going through depression, it is imperative to talk to the person in question. Having open discourse is, in my mind, the only viable way to help. It’s time to remove the stigmas behind talking about depression and mental illnesses in general – stereotypes like these don’t help; they just make it harder for all involved. Really, the “hard questions” shouldn’t be hard questions to ask at all.

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