There are many things you should know about depression in order to better understand it to help yourself, or someone else in need. For a disorder that's so prevalent in this world - one of the largest causes of disability in fact - it is still highly misunderstood. I hope that these things you should know about depression can open up your mind to help you better understand this disease from which millions suffer.
1. Just Because You Can't See It Doesn't Mean It Doesn't Exist
One of the most important things you should know about depression is that it is a disease, and it is very real. Those who struggle with depression should be treated with the same compassion that is offered to those suffering from any other "socially acceptable" illness. Through brain scans experts have detected that the frontal lobes of those with depression display lower activity levels than those in non-depressed individuals. So, even though you may not be able to detect it with the naked eye, it's existence should not be discredited.
2. Leads to Other Problems
Depression that is left untreated can increase the risk of developing other illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems and conditions of the nervous system. Physical ailments that you already have can also be made worse. Something as seemingly simple as getting out of bed can be a difficult, and sometimes almost impossible feat, when you are depressed. The assumption that depression only affects the mind is a huge misconception. Though it begins in the mind, depression affects you as a whole - mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually.
3. Nobody is Immune
Whether you are rich, poor, introverted, extroverted, black, white, woman or man, depression does not discriminate. You can have perfect hair and be the life of the party with a flock of friends and still be depressed. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world. There is no common denominator.
4. You Can't Just "Snap out of It"
Let me reiterate that depression is a disease. To ask someone to snap out of depression is like asking them to snap out of any other illness, like the flu or diabetes. If you have depression you are not weak, lazy, or trying to get attention. What you are feeling is valid and it matters.
5. It's Not a Punishment
No one deserves to be depressed. Depression can be caused by a multitude of factors but not one of them is because you were bad or did something wrong. Chronic depression can arise "out of the blue", and some depression is situational caused by traumatic events or changes. No one should ever feel guilty or be made to feel guilty about it.
Sometimes there is one. Sometimes there isn't. You can have good days and bad days, just like everybody else. You don't need to justify or rationalize the cause of your depression to anyone. Not even to yourself. No one should have to. It just is. The best thing you can do for a person who suffers from depression is to believe them.
7. A Smile Can Hide a Thousand Tears
The passing of Robin Williams shocked the majority, if not all of us. How could a man who gave us countless laughs be struggling with depression? The truth is, many depressed people hide behind a "happy" facade. They're almost always "on". In public, they'll wear a mask to disguise their inner pain. Just because someone isn't crying or showing other signs of sadness does not mean that they're not fighting an internal battle. A depressed person can laugh and tell jokes one minute and go home to a world of social isolation and suicidal thoughts the next. Never assume that you know someone's struggle. They don't know yours.
8. It Gets Lonely
Very lonely. One of the toughest things about living with depression is the feeling that you're facing it alone. The societal taboo concerning mental illness often keeps the depressed silent, unwilling to face the potential liabilities that disclosing it may cause on all personal relationships. The possibility of rejection is often too much to bear. In turn, seclusion becomes both friend and foe; a safety net of isolation. Being depressed in itself is challenging enough. Putting what you're feeling into words to try to explain to people who may not understand, when there's already a stigma around your illness, is exceedingly difficult. But try to remember this; not all will understand you - even YOU may not understand you - but some will and many will try. Let people in. You are not alone. And if someone confides in you about their struggle, be empathetic and support them just by being there. It takes a lot to open up to someone.
9. There is No QUICK Fix ... but There is a Fix
Anything worth having is worth fighting for. This is especially true of yourself and your well-being. Depression is not something you can recover from overnight. You can think happy thoughts and still be unhappy. You can be mindful and meditate and still be restless. You can boost your endorphins through yoga and exercise and still be listless. You can eliminate gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar from your diet and still be lethargic. And medications, though in some cases can help with the healing process, do not provide all the answers. That's because there is no one size fits all answer. Everyone is different, as is everyone's road to recovery. There is not one cure. BUT, there ARE cures! It just takes the will to change, to fight for the most important thing you have in your life; yourself! There IS hope!
10. There is Hope
One more time - THERE IS HOPE! Say it to anyone you know of who turns to you for help. Say it to yourself! And most importantly, BELIEVE IT! Though you may be depressed, there is an ending to the suffering. An end where you LIVE and you live a fulfilled and happy life. Though positive thinking, meditation, yoga, exercise, being outdoors, a proactive diet, therapy and medication aren't the magic overnight solution they do help change things gradually. There are no small victories. Every accomplishment and every step you take to heal should be celebrated. You can also reach beyond yourself, beyond the fear, and connect with others who have felt the same way. It does wonders to hear directly from a person who's gone through their own struggle, that not only did they survive but they gained even more strength and resilience. Turn the pain into purpose. It just takes time. Give yourself that gift.
If you are currently struggling with depression please remember that you are not alone. There are millions of people who know what it's like to face the darkness and long for the light. Don't give up. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, so be strong. You are not the only one. Let's end the stigma. Have you ever had to experience depression through yourself or someone else?