The most important thing I want you to know about depression is this: It is an illness.
Depression is not a sin.
A person with depression isn’t sinning any more than someone with cancer is sinning. It is a horrible illness that eats away at a person’s spirit instead of their physical body. Depression does not equal a lack of faith, a lack of gratitude, or any other sin.
Depression is not a choice.
I will never understand this one. No one wants to suffer from debilitating depression. Trust me. And since it’s not a choice, the sufferer cannot just “snap out of it” or “get over it” at will. Otherwise, we would. Promise.
Depression is not an excuse.
Depression is a debilitating illness. It robs a person of strength, energy, motivation, and sometimes the very will to live. Sometimes going through the motions of life requires more energy than I have. Not because I’m lazy, but because I have an illness.
Depression is not a bad day.
In our society, we throw around the word so much that it has lost all meaning. “Oh no, my favorite sitcom is ending, I’m so depressed.” Or “I can’t find my favorite purse, I’m so depressed.” No. Sometimes, when people hear “depression” they think Oh, I get sad sometimes too. But I don’t let it run my life. And the truth is, I get it. If you haven’t been through it, you can’t understand. And for your sake, I’m glad you don’t understand. But for my sake, I wish you’d try.
Being depressed isn’t being sad for a day. In severe cases, it’s being sad every day, and usually for no reason. It’s losing the ability to enjoy things, even things that you once loved. It’s having no energy. It’s having no appetite, or having a food addiction. Depression actually affects much more than the obvious. The list of symptoms is long.
Depression may not be a reflection of the quality of someone’s life. Sometimes depression may be triggered by circumstances (some call this “situational” depression), but that isn’t always the case.
What I really want you to know about depression is that sometimes, it has nothing to do with circumstances. Sometimes, a person is depressed in spite of their circumstances.
By all measurements, I have a beautiful life. I have two amazing, adorable little boys. I have a wonderful, supportive husband. We don’t have a lot of money, but our bills are paid and finances aren’t an overbearing worry for us. We live in a wonderful community and have a great support system at our church. I have seen many miracles first hand, and I have felt the presence of God in my life and in my living room more times than I deserve. My life has been largely untouched by grief and tragedy.
Yet I suffer from severe, chronic depression. And sometimes the most frustrating thing is that it defies explanation. Sometimes, I want those people to be right. If my depression were caused by outside circumstance, I could fix it. I could fix it with a better attitude or more gratitude. I could fix it with more money, or better things. But the truth is, my depression is a medical illness. And I can’t will it gone any more than I could fix the lung cancer that took my uncle away when he was far too young.
If there’s one thing I hope you’ll take away, it’s this—Depression is a medical illness, not a matter of choice or character. And those who suffer from it need your support and love, not your judgment.