A lot of people don’t understand what depression is. They think it’s a very simple response with a very simple cause – like being sad or having a bad day. If you think depression is just sadness, be grateful.
Cake and Cookies
I’ve been battling depression pretty much all of my life – from before I was a teenager, to the present day. Although it sometimes manifests as sadness, those are the good days. Let me tell you what depression is really like.
Imagine grabbing your favorite desert – a beautiful chocolate cake or a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, covered in ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Now imagine taking a whiff of the delicacy in front of you and plunging your fork or spoon into that decadent goodness. As you lift it to your mouth, watering in expectation, you are elated as you prepare yourself for a taste sensation.
As the desert lands on your tongue and your lips wrap around the utensil, retaining every last morsel as its retracted from your mouth, an odd realization hits you. At first it’s surprising, then it’s unnerving, and then it’s concerning and almost frightening: the dessert has no taste.
You can feel the texture – the firmness of the chunks, the liquidity of the ice cream, the softness of the frosting – but there is absolutely no flavor. Are your tastebuds broken? Have you had a stroke? Is something wrong with your brain? This is not how it’s supposed to be. There is supposed to be flavor – good, bad, or something in-between – but not none at all.
That’s one side of depression – not a life of sadness, but a life simply void at times – empty and hollow. If you think depression is just sadness, be grateful, because there’s another aspect to depression that’s even more debilitating.
A Car with no Engine
Imagine you have to get somewhere in a car that doesn’t have an engine, or more accurately, it has an engine that works all too well, but the gas pedal doesn’t work.
It doesn’t matter how much you know you need to get somewhere or how much you want to get somewhere, if the gas pedal doesn’t work, you’re stuck.
Now I know solution-focused people (Good for you! We should all be solution focused!) will say “just find another means of transportation!” That’s a great idea. The only problem is this is a metaphor. The car in this analogy is our bodies, and we’re kind of stuck with them.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat, racking my brain for any reason, hope, purpose that was enough to push that gas pedal just to get up off the couch or out of bed. At times I’ve sat minutes and even hours, just looking for any reason that would provide enough weight for that gas pedal to trigger.
Depression often leaves you feeling pointless, hopeless, and purposeless, as if all of life is as tasteless as that dessert. It’s nearly impossible to find the way to press that pedal when life feels just as gray and void whether or not that pedal is pushed. The force that moves that pedal – hope, purpose, meaning – is basically non-existent in the middle of depression.
If you think depression is just sadness, be grateful. Here’s why.
Why You Should Be Grateful
If you think depression is just sadness, be grateful. Why? Because it means that if you’ve either never experienced depression, or if you have it’s been .1 on a scale of 10.
Instead of judging other people when you haven’t been in their shoes, you should be grateful that you’ve never been in them. They are heavy shoes that feel pointless and hopeless and don’t let go.
If you think depression is just sadness, you’re lucky. You’re fortunate. You’re blessed. Be grateful. Then the next time you meet someone who sees depression differently, be kind. A little understanding can go a long way.