10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew about Depression 49


I have wanted to do a post on depression for a long time. I think there are so many misperceptions out there about depression. A few months ago I saw an article on Facebook about how depression is not a real  illness. It made my insides hurt.  

Depression is misunderstood.

I have experience both personally and professionally with depression, and I have found there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what depression is, how it affects people, and how to treat depression. Sadly, because of these misconceptions, many don’t seek treatment, and others aren’t able to help someone struggling with depression because they just don’t understand.

If you have ever experienced depression, it feels grey.

Imagine seeing the beautiful, colorful world around you suddenly in shades of grey — foggy, and without focus.  

Imagine waking up and just wanting to go back to sleep because you can’t imagine facing your day.  

Imagine being unable to sleep, when that’s all you really want to do.

You can’t eat because nothing tastes good.

Your sex drive is gone, and you are suddenly irritable all the time.

Your body hurts. You have headaches and muscle aches that have no explanation.

Now, imagine someone telling you that it is all “in your head”.

How do you feel?

depression

 

So, to start, let’s talk about some statistics.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

19 million Americans suffer from depression each year

2.5% of children

8.3% of adolescents

12% of adult women

7% of adult men

6% over the age of 65

So, the statistics indicate that you very likely know someone who struggles with depression.  

They may not have admitted it. They may not even know it.

You may not know it, but you may have someone close to you in the midst of a very dark battle.

 

In an effort to help dispel some myths about depression, here is my list of…

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Depression

1.  Depression is an illness, just like high-blood pressure or diabetes.  

It is not just “in your head”. Depression is a brain disorder, which means that the chemicals in your brain that regulate your mood, thought process, sleeping, eating, and motivation are affected. The thalamus, hippocampus, cerebral cortex and amygdala are affected.  


brain

Depression has many causes and is a very complex illness. Research has and is being done to understand depression, so although we don’t know everything, we do know that it has genetic and bio-chemical components, and it can be triggered by stressful life events and medical problems. 

2.  Depression is not just an emotional illness; it affects your mind, body, moods, and spiritual well-being.

Depression is a whole body illness.  It can affect the way a person sleeps and eats. It affects how one feels about oneself. It affects relationships and even one’s ability to connect spiritually. Depression has many physical symptoms: headaches, stomachaches, muscle aches, and more. Depression can affect your sex drive, your ability to concentrate, and your energy level.

Here are the basic symptoms of depression. This is not intended as a diagnostic tool, but simply an educational one. If you or someone you know has five or more of these symptoms most of the time every day for two weeks or more, please visit a medical professional:

    • lasting sad mood
    • loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
    • changes in appetite/weight
    • changes in sleep
    • agitation or slowed down behavior
    • loss of energy/feeling fatigued
    • difficulty concentrating
    • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • physical symptoms
    • thoughts of death or suicide

Again, depression is not only tears and sadness, depression affects how a person functions physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually in day-to-day activities. And, depression is very serious.

3.  Depression has many different faces.

Many times we think we could spot a depressed person from a distance.  They look like Eeyore, right?  They are sad and gloomy all the time.  

Low carb ketogenic diet fights depression, bipolar disorder and fuels weight loss

This is simply not so. Sometimes a depressed person puts on a “face” for others, so you may never know the pain of the silent and solitary battle they are fighting. I think most of us have be shocked by the death of Robin Williams. His face was not the “face” of depression, but as more details come out, it becomes clear that he struggled with a form of depression. My heart aches for him and his family. I wish them peace and comfort in this time of grief and pain.

Other public figures that have struggled with depression: Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Jim Carrey, Drew Carey, Princess Diana, Ashley Judd, Michelangelo, and J.K. Rowling

These are only a few names, but see how they are all different faces. Someone may be struggling with depression that you see smiling at church and work. That doesn’t mean they are not struggling.

Depression is no respecter of persons.

Remember, depression has many faces. Depression is not visible, like a broken arm, but it is very real.

4.  Depression isn’t caused by lack of willpower, laziness, sin, or ingratitude.  

Depression just is, like the weather. We cannot prevent a rainy day, no matter how much we hope for the sun. Some days it is just going to rain. Some days, no matter how many good things are going on in a person’s life, they are still depressed. It is not because they are selfish, ungrateful, or lazy. It is not because they are not faithful or worthy. It is because they are struggling with a real illness: depression.

As stated above, there are many contributing factors to the causes of depression. 

There are some myths that must be debunked. Here are a list of things statements we all need as we educate ourselves about depression:

Depression is not caused by a weak mind or attitude.

Depression is not caused by sin.

Depression is not created as a ploy for attention.

Depression is not an illness of the lazy.

Depression is not just “in your head”.

5.  There is help and treatment for depression.

About 80% of people who struggle with depression can be helped; many within a few weeks. Depression is not a hopeless illness. There are very effective treatments out there that can help.  

Psychotherapy and medication, or both, are very effective treatments. So, although you cannot choose which days it rains, you can get an umbrella.  

6.  Two-thirds of people who struggle with depression don’t get the help they need.

Some people believe if they just wait it out, it will get better. But, then, it doesn’t. Typically, depression doesn’t get better on its own. Seek help early on. Talk with your doctor.

Other who struggle don’t get help because they don’t want to take antidepressants. There are very effective treatments for depression that don’t use antidepressants. Psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and relational therapy are helpful in managing depression. Also diet, exercise and developing better sleep habits can be helpful in managing depression.

If you are struggling, seek help. Waiting may only allow the depression to deepen and create more problems in your life.

7. In our educated society, we still shame depression.

Many people don’t get help because they are embarrassed.  They are embarrassed that others will know. They are embarrassed to talk to their doctor. They are embarrassed to go to therapy, and talk to a therapist.  They are embarrassed because, in our so-called educated society, we still shame depression.  

Many, many people still think it is a weakness, a failure, and an embarrassment.

Depression is real

Just recently, I was talking to someone who said to me in all honesty: “Aren’t depression and stress the same thing?” No, depression and stress are not the same thing. We all experience stress to some degree in our lives. We can manage that by setting boundaries and using self-care. Depression is not a passing blue mood or bad day. Depression is a medical illness that needs medical attention.

Educate yourselves and your families. Share this article. Teach others about depression. We all can make a difference by gathering together as a community and supporting and loving one another.

Stop the shame. 

Instead, instill hope. Depression is treatable. It is nothing to be ashamed of. We should start treating depression as we would any illness; raise awareness, seek treatment, instill hope.  

Gather with me today to instill hope in the battle against depression.

8. Depression is associated with many other illnesses.

Medical professional use the term co-morbid, which means occurring at the same time. For example, over 50% of people that struggle with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. There are increased rates of drug and alcohol abuse with depression. One-third of those diagnosed with ADHD develop depression. And depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also co-occur.

When someone struggles with depression, they may also be fighting additional battles. Some people with depression self-medicate, others feel so hopeless they want to give up. Someone may be depressed and anxious at the same time. Depression is a complicated battle.

This is only another reason to seek help early.  

9. Someone who struggles with depression may or may not want advice, but they do need a friend.

Sometimes you may not know what to say to someone who is struggling with depression. Sometimes, in an effort to help, we can create more pain. We may say things like:

It will be better tomorrow.  

You are just having a bad day.

Look at all the things you have!

If you just exercise, you will feel better.

Have you been saying your prayers?

Statements like these can cause more pain and hurt, and not encourage or uplift. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who is struggling is be there. Ask how they are doing and then listen. If you really listen, you will hear their heart, and maybe they will begin to trust you with it.

If you don’t know what to say, say: “Man, that is hard.  I just don’t know what to say.” And, then be there.  Your presence and staying power is meaningful to someone who is struggling with depression. Be a friend.

umbrella depression

10. Depression does not define you.

You are not wholly your depression. Don’t look at so-and-so down the street and define her as the “depressed” one. She is much more than that: a mother, a sister, a wife, a volunteer. When one struggles with depression, it seems to color all aspects of one’s life, but it does not define who they are.

She is a painter.

She is a mother.

He is a giver.

He is a doctor

And…they struggle with a medical illness called depression.

Depression is only a piece of who you are.

Depression Steven Fry

 

Depression is a serious medical illness, that can be helped with proper treatment. Please, help spread the word and stop the shame associated with depression. There is hope. There is help.

 

Did you learn something today?  Is there information here that you feel should be shared?

Please, if the answer to either one is yes, share this article. Share it with someone you know. Share it on social media.  Let us educate others about depression together.

 

For more information on depression, please check out these links:

National Institute of Mental Health

Harvard Health: What Causes Depression

WebMD: Avoiding Depression Treatment

Depression and Co-morbidity

Families for Depression Awareness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Please note that this article has no intent to diagnose or treat depression. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, please seek appropriate medical treatment.

 

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Elizabeth

Wife, mother of twins, speaker, and creator of Balm to My Soul.I love to write, speak, sleep, snuggle and, if I really get lucky, inspire and help others. I am clearly imperfect but determined to be a little better every day. Some days are better than others! Thanks for stopping by!
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About Elizabeth

Wife, mother of twins, speaker, and creator of Balm to My Soul. I love to write, speak, sleep, snuggle and, if I really get lucky, inspire and help others. I am clearly imperfect but determined to be a little better every day. Some days are better than others! Thanks for stopping by!


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49 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew about Depression

  • Reply
    Karen

    Well spoken. I was very blessed to have two friends who excercised with me every day for several years while I was depressed. I am sure the exercise was great, but their listening helped me heal.

    One of the most painful thoughts is that if we live the gospel we will be happy. I beat myself up wondering what I had done wrong. Why wasn’t I getting any comfort from God? Why were my prayers unanswered? It was also very painful when well meaning people would tell me that I could decide to be happy. Who wouldn’t decide to be happy if it was as easy as that?

    A gratitude journal helped. Several of the entries are pathetically sarcastic, but it began to help. Also, I was able to find hope in my faith that God could make my difficult circumstances work together for my good.

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks Karen. I so appreciate your comments. As I got ready to post this, I had to take a deep breath, but felt it was so needed. I think gratitude journals are so wonderful. I bet there were a few sarcastic entries 🙂 I appreciate you so much. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Depression is such a difficult struggle. Thank you for stopping by and being willing to share today. It is difficult to admit, but so helpful when we know we are not alone.

  • Reply
    Bobbi

    I’m so glad you did this post. I have a daughter (18) that has struggled most of her life. Within the last couple years, she was finally diagnosed with Bi-Polar and Manic Depression. I still have to argue with some people (unfortunately, some are family members) that it’s real. I wish everyone understood.

    Thanks so much for sharing and making more people aware!!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks Bobbi. I hope it is helpful. So many people don’t understand depression. They think it is just “made up”. I hope this post helps at least one person to reevaluate the negative myths and stigmas out there. Thanks for sharing and stopping over!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you Kate. It is so hard to see someone struggling and then see people judge them unfairly, in the very midst of their struggle. Thank you for sharing and for commenting. Have a beautiful day!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks Ana and thanks for the share. I think everyone was shocked by the loss of Robin Williams. I hope it does raise some awareness of this sensitive concern. Depression is much more widespread than I think many people realize. I enjoyed your tribute to Robin Williams as well. Thanks for always being so supportive!

  • Reply
    Seana Turner

    Terrific post. Depression affects so many of us (perhaps most of us, at one time or another). For some, it is a constant specter that hovers always in the background… a pit that we easily fall into. I am a big fan of seeking whatever help you can, and trying a variety of things… people find relief in different approaches. As someone who cares about people suffering with depression (and it is suffering), my “go to” keyword is hope – there is always reason to hope!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      I agree Seana. The same thing doesn’t work for everyone. I think that you have picked an excellent keyword: hope is so important. We always need to hold onto hope. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing.

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you, Becka. The red umbrella quote is my favorite as well. Thanks for stopping by. This is such an important issue for all of us to become better educated about.

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you Jenessa for stopping by and for commenting. I so agree. We can all help by spreading the word. Thanks again and have a great day!

  • Reply
    Susan K Smith

    How refreshing to read something written by someone who truly understands and is educated about depression. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Caroline

    This is such an important post! While Robin Williams’ death was tragic, at least I feel like people are FINALLY talking about depression and mental illness for what it is… an ILLNESS! What strikes me most about the statistics is that that’s the percentage of diagnosed cases. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who are undiagnosed due to shame, unavailable healthcare, etc. We’re studying Job in my Sunday School class and have been talking about #9 a lot. It’s like people who say “don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant again” to someone who just had a miscarriage. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. This is such a beautiful post. Thank you for tackling such an important topic in a beautiful way.

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you, Caroline, for taking time for such a meaningful comment. It is true. I wonder how many people really go undiagnosed, and that is so hard to estimate as they are off the radar. I love what you said about Job and the things we say to people. Sometimes the best intentions can be painful in outcome. A little education goes a long ways! Thanks for stopping over and for the sweet and thoughtful comment. I really appreciate it!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks for stopping over Yvonne. I do think about Robin Williams. I hope this post helps at least someone understand depression a little bit more and stops the negative stigma. Thank you for commenting!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks Rebecca for stopping over. I am hoping that combined voices can educate about depression. Have a beautiful day!

  • Reply
    Vicki M Taylor

    Depression hurts. Depression is for Real. Depression Kills. I have medication resistant depression. The worst kind. No medication can help me. I must have ECT treatments to beat away the darkness, the clouds, the pain. the hopelessness. The bleakness. The darkness. The PAIN!!!! But it works. Two years ago I had 9 ECT treatments. I’ve been doing well since. No, that’s wrong. I’ve been DOING GREAT!!! My husband said the other day that if last year, I would have said to him I wanted to start another business, he would have said “no”, but this year, another story. I’m strong, successful, positive, creative, a warrior. enabled. passionate. strong. You wrote a great article, I hope many others see it.

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you Vicki, and thank you for being brave and vulnerable enough to share your story here and on your blog. Medication resistant depression is so hard because of exactly what you described. I am so happy that ECT worked for you. I had someone I admire do it and it didn’t work for them, and that breaks my heart. You are a warrior. Thanks again for sharing here. I hope all of our voices combined can make a difference. I know it can!

  • Reply
    Jody Cowan

    I know exactly what you mean! I agree completely! I’ve had depression and anxiety for years! I am being treated so it’s not real bad every day. I write about depression on my blog, too. I think people need to realize it’s an actual disease. I’m so glad I found you on Pintastic Pinteresting Party #26! Pinned!

  • Reply
    Joan

    This post is excellent. It can help those who read it, Those who understand it, and those who do not. The comments are excellent. Thank you, Elizabeth.

  • Reply
    Michele @ Alwayzbakin

    What a great post. It’s great for people to read that have never suffered from depression because a lot of people don’t understand it. I’ve battled it before and it runs in my family. Thank you for sharing. 😉

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you, Michele. I know there are so many misunderstandings about depression, and that makes it difficult to talk about and admit. I know I struggle off and on, and so this was an important and personal post for me! Thanks for coming by! I am so glad we are co-hosting together as that has introduced us!

  • Reply
    Eva@Whole Food Mom on a Budget

    This is a wonderful article on depression. My own husband who has suffered anxiety has told me that I can just “get over” depression and be a happier person. How quickly he forgot his own struggles! I’ve seen other bloggers discourage medication and say that it is not needed. Maybe in some it is not but their suggestion to abandoned medication to treat depression is very scary! Thanks for getting the word out!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you, Eva. I was worried when I posted this that I would get some negative feedback. I did lose one follower, but what I had to say was important, and I have gotten mostly overwhelmingly positive feedback. I know not everyone needs medication, and for some, medication may not work, but depression is real and sometimes that means medical intervention is necessary. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply
    misssrobin

    Thank you so much for talking about depression. I hope we learn something as a society in this difficult moment we’re all sharing. I hope this terrible moment isn’t wasted. I hope we can finally start to kick the crap out of the stigma of mental illness.

    I refuse to accept the stigma. I’ve fought depression off and on for thirty years now. I’ve tried many, many antidepressants and have never found one that works. I believe depression will always be a part of my life. Luckily, I’ve had the resources to get help. I have a wonderful therapist and a good support system.

    But so many people don’t. So I will keep speaking up about it. I will keep writing about it. I will keep being the soft place for people to land. The one they can tell their dark things to without judgment. Because it matters.

    Stopping by from the SITS Sharefest.

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you for sharing! I was reminded again today that there still is a stigma. I was talking with someone who is struggling and she said just last week someone said to her: “How come you’re still depressed?” Some people just do not get it. Maybe it isn’t their fault, I cannot judge. But we do need to spread the word and start talking about it. The more we do, the more people will get it. Off to read your post now!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Erlene, I am so sorry about your BIL. That is so difficult. I hope he is getting some help and has a little hope. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Seana Turner

    I so appreciate this post. I have people in my life who struggle, and it is so hard to watch. In addition to being hard on the patient, it is also hard on those who love this person. We can get sucked in as well. Is there an “AlAnon” for depression?? I think everyone touched by this illness needs support!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you Seana. I agree with you that everyone that has been touched by this needs support. We sometimes easily forget those family members and caregivers that are affected. NAMI does support groups for families affected. Look them up online and see if you can find a group near you! I always enjoy seeing you, Seana. Thanks for stopping over!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you! I can’t imagine how hard it is to have your son struggle. I am so glad to hear that medication is helping him. I have seen medication help so many, and know that for some it can make a huge difference!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thank you, Keisha. I feel really strongly about educating people and spreading the word so we can stop the stigma. Thank you for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Emilee

    There is such power in this post! I want to share it with everyone I know, especially mother’s who are so very critical of themselves and often don’t recognize depression. Wonderful blog! I’ve just found you but plan to read many more of your posts.