Depression isn't sadness

I don’t want to be depressed. It feels weird that I need to say that, but sometimes I have to remind people, myself included, that I didn’t choose this feeling — if “feeling” is even the right word.

“Disorder” or “disease” would be more accurate, but even I have trouble accepting depression as an extrinsic influence. I’ve had it, off and on, my entire life. It’s like an absentee parent who shows up to be disruptive and tell me the parent who stuck around is bad.

I’ve accepted it so thoroughly that it really feels more like a personality trait. It’s as seamless in my mind as my sense of humor. It’s just there. And, on some level, it is a personality trait. People know that I’m “prone to depression” or that I “get this way, sometimes.” And I agree with them.

Depression Isn’t Sadness

I’m not “sad.” Depression isn’t a “sad feeling.” Sadness has a specific cause and people experiencing sadness can be cheered up. Sadness is a feeling. Depression is not. In many cases, it’s a complete void of emotion. The worst depression I’ve ever experienced is as close to being unconscious as I believe a person can get and still be awake.

Depression exists from mild to severe, and all points between. All depression is debilitating and takes a toll on the sufferer.

Depression Makes Me Feel Trapped

Depression attacks on all fronts. It takes away my ability to care about anything or anyone – including myself. While technically alive, my mind might as well be dead to me. Involuntary actions continue, like breathing, but depression takes control of the voluntary functions.

I can still think about what I want to do, but become powerless to actually do it. Just because I am aware that I need to go to work, and aware of the consequences of not going, I just can’t do it. Not physically or mentally.

Depression strips out rational thoughts and replaces them with lies and twisted truths. Our brains hold everything about us: our fears, our pasts, and our desires. All of that is warped and used to convince me that I’m utterly worthless and no one cares about me. Depression tells me that my very existence is meaningless.

As the depression consumes me, I use all the mental resources I can muster to hold on.  I somehow have to find the light in blackness and a way to mentally go toward it so that I can physically follow. I can’t give up, because this is the only me there will ever be and I have to hold on to the idea that I have some sort of purpose.

I have to remember that the same mind pulling me into the darkness is the same one I’m going to use to pull me out of it. If it has the power to hurt me, it has the power to save me.

As long as I’m alive, I’m winning.

Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and advocate who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He has made it his mission to change the way society reacts to mental illness. He is an award-winning blogger and the creator of the official bipolar shirt. (Get yours now!) Interested in working with Gabe or learning more? He can be reached on Facebook, via email, or on his website, www.GabeHoward.com.  Don’t be shy — he’s not.

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