In a recent post, I asked some questions about depression, and wondered whether it might be possible for depression to bring any hidden gifts. Whether depression might have more than the one (most obvious and painful) dimension to it. What else it might bring to the table.

These wonderings sparked a lot of passionate thoughts and responses from people, both for and against the idea.

And these responses highlighted some of the myriad ways everyone has of understanding depression and the various effects it has on our lives.

So I wonder, how would you define depression?

(Or does it sometimes feel as though depression is defining you?)

Whether it be the depression that you personally face day to day, or the depression that’s descended on a family member or a friend, how would you describe it?

Is there a word or a feeling or a colour that captures its essence for you?

Or does it feel like something a whole essay couldn’t have a hope of outlining?

Would defining it more clearly help you to grapple with it? Would it mean ‘getting a better handle on it’ in some way? Might knowing its dimensions help you find your way through it?

For instance, are you dealing with a wall of depression, or a maze of it, or a sea of it… and could knowing this help shape your response? For definitions can sometimes help to clarify what you’re dealing with.

In fact, dictionary definitions can literally help us ‘get on the same page’ about a specific word or issue. So could it help you, and the people around you, if you could encase depression in a description that felt right? To all be seeing it from the same angle? To have some unity in the face of it?

Another question that seems worth asking is:

is there only room for one definition of depression?

Do only the professional jargon or the clinical classifications and terms count?

Or is there space for your story, your approach alongside that, too?

One more noteworthy thing about dictionary definitions is that they evolve over time. They keep up with the changes in language and the changes in life.

So is there any place for re-defining the way you describe your depression sometimes?

If so, when might that be useful to do?
How often might you revisit and reassess what depression actually means for you? Not just what it meant when it started, but where you currently find yourself with it, right now.

And, if you have any ideas about how you’d define depression and its impact on your life, please feel free to share them here, so we can all learn from one another…

Perhaps that way, we can all contribute to an evolving definition of it together… a kind of ‘living dictionary’ or ‘human library’ of our collective lived experience with depression.

So, how do you define it?

Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.