Five Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Depression

Many of us know someone who struggles with depression. Depression significantly impacts the lives of those who struggle with it--affecting their daily functioning at work, school, and in relationships. Learning how to walk alongside and support those suffering from chronic depression begins with understanding. Below, a guest writer who lives with chronic depression shares her thoughts on the topic. We hope it promote understanding and how to best care for and support your loved one. Read on: 


"Straight answers to depression are hard to find. In treatment for my chronic depression, I often doubt my healing progress, and feel my emotional balance faltering. My loving family does their best to help a mentally ill mother/daughter/sister/wife. It’s a thorny path softened by abundant joy and wonder. On the journey, these five statements have been a help to me and those who are walking with me.

Depression is an illness needing medical treatment. Sufferers do not cause their symptoms of sadness, apathy, and anxiety. These moods are recognizable hallmarks of depression, an illness. The consequences of untreated mental illness are well documented. Substance abuse and suicide are often the unhappy conclusions to lives lacking adequate mental health care.

We are not lazy. Sad for no reason, in bed half the day, forgetful of showers and toothbrushes, people living with depression retreat from a world that praises self-reliance, fortitude, and extroverts. Prodded to “get up,” “get over it,” and “leave the past in the past,” we respond in anger, grief, or avoidance. When chronic depressives feel worthless, guilty, and hopeless, their symptoms are winning. Laziness doesn’t come into it.

We need quiet hours, routine, and time away from you.
Depression magnifies everyday challenges. Sufferers focus on fitting in, acting “normal,” and hiding their feelings. Time to decompress and reset after (and during) a day filled with anxieties is not optional for us. The best intentions of friends and family may clash with the precious time we need to keep functional.

Mental illness is confusing. Depression feeds on abandonment and isolation. There may be good reasons for a depressed person to believe in negative narratives. Pushy advice and tone-deaf suggestions to “get with the program,” and “just enjoy yourself for once,” underline the disconnect. A depressed person wonders whose side her spouse, parents, siblings, and friends are taking. “Are they here to help me? Or am I on my own?”

Everyone is going through something. And we all must remember it. Everyone suffers. A depressed person must not forget that “normal people” cry, second-guess, and sometimes despise themselves. Those who love us must remember their own moments of deepest suffering when supporting mentally ill friends and family. Empathy is hard to come by.

With a condition as complex as chronic depression, it’s impossible to generalize. Every patient suffers differently but all people experiencing depression rely on their relatives and friends to navigate this difficult road."


Could you use a little encouragement and support as you work to understand and walk beside a loved one who has a mental illness? The support group, Supporting Loved Ones with Mental Illness, meets every second Thursday of the month at 6:00 PM in the NCBC Library. All are welcome.