Recently, I had a conversation with a friend explaining the physical and mental crippling effects of my depression. After processing the conversation, it made me realize that it is not only hard to explain what my “lows” are like but for some to understand. I left the conversation feeling misunderstood and as if I choose to stay in bed, not eat and have suicidal thoughts. Translation, “Kea, you’re being lazy.”
The interesting part is how as humans we like to naturally compare our experiences as a way to connect with one another. While that can be helpful and make us feel like we are not dealing with life challenges on our own, the damaging part is that it can easily discredit another’s experience. Since my friend stated that as a parent, staying in bed is not an option and pushing through is a must for the children. Here is why that statement can be troubling for me and others who struggle with depression. While my friend did not state that I was being lazy, the comparison made me feel as if I was. We all have days where we don’t feel like going to work, school, cooking, etc., but that should not be confused with someone who is battling depression. I do not have the ability to "push through" when I am in an episode. It is gone. It is nonexistent. I often hear people say "push through". Don't you think if I could push through, I would. In fact, the medication helps me to do simple things like shower and eat.
The main difference is that feeling of “blah” eventually goes away within a few days or so. At the minimum, depression goes on for two weeks. In my case, I battled with it for 10 plus years without realizing it and it became worse. I’ve been making the necessary changes to combat the depression which is the reason I’ve been in therapy for three years, seeing a psychiatrist, participating in partial hospitalization programs and support groups. I have a choice in accepting or declining treatment and since my suicide attempt, I have been an active member in my treatment plan which is anything but lazy.
With depression, there is a persistent lack of energy and motivation even though I wholeheartedly want to do things such as record my podcast and hang out with family and friends. However, it is physically impossible to move. In fact, there are days when I don't feel like doing anything but I get up and get things done. In those instances, I am usually tired or need a 'lazy day' but I'm not in a depression. Others with depression have lost the meaning to live life and rather die (I have been there too) and this should never be confused with choosing to be crippled by the illness or being lazy. According to the WHO study, depression is the leading disability worldwide. Yes, it is a disability and should be treated as such. Would you say to a cancer patient that they are choosing to lose hair and progressively become weak? While that may seem far-fetched, it is the same thing with depression. I don't choose not to complete daily activities and take care of my hygiene; I am simply unable to. Please think twice before comparing your struggles with someone else's and hear what the person is saying instead of comparing and potentially, minimize their experiences.