Depression is not sadness

Image of a man looking depressed

People who have never lived with depression, or lived with someone who has depression, can sometimes misunderstand what it means to have depression and how it affects people. Depression is equated with sadness and from that viewpoint the concept that a good ol’ “Cheer up, buddy” or “Snap out of it” will solve everything seems perfectly logical. Alas as someone who has lived with depression (technically Dysthymia) I can assure you that is akin to considering having a leg cut off as merely a flesh wound.

In my lived experience, depression is like having a faulty rechargeable battery. Some days the battery is up to 100% charge first thing in the morning and yet two hours later it’s at 3% and in need of a recharge. Other days it starts at 60% and to get through the whole day the charge level has to be managed, eeked out over many hours. It isn’t a perfect analogy but it works for me at least at this point in time. There is the Spoon Theory which is probably a better way of putting it.

Then there is the feeling of total emptiness. It is as if the barrel that contains all of your emotional wealth has holes in the bottom that allow it to drain away without you noticing. You plug the holes one by one until the barrel starts filling again but it’s never completely fixed. There is always a little leak somewhere.

The thing is to try and keep enough energy to keep your eye on the ball and notice when the barrel is leaking. It’s a hard balance. It doesn’t help when you are using your spoons to keep on top of your emotions and mental space and you have less (or none) left for other things (food/money/relationships). Something will always fall by the wayside.

So the next time you hear that someone is depressed, remember it is s whole lot more complicated than feeling sad.

Photo by Hamed Parham

Author: Nick Perkins

I'm an IT Manager by day. I'm a advocate for mental health awareness and fat acceptance by night.

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