I have chronic depression. This is a condition with physical, emotional, behavioral, and cultural components. In fact it is probably somewhere from a dozen to several hundred different conditions that are lumped all together under one name.
I've heard many incorrect beliefs about depression and its treatment over the years.
Depression is not the same thing as being stupid, weak, or lazy. Depression is not equivalent to wallowing in victimhood. It is not a cute Goth fashion. It is not just refusing to snap out of a bad mood. Depression is not just a sad mood.
It often attacks motivation. Sometimes doing the simplest thing, like getting up and dressed in the morning, can be a huge effort. Living in a culture that strongly values independence and productivity over other forms of being can add a terrible burden to us. We may already believe we are worthless, and having this belief echoed back at us from our own culture can make it a lot harder to fight.
If a depressed person can't make a decision, they aren't necessarily just being ornery. If a depressed person cries a lot, they aren't necessarily just being a drama queen. If a depressed person doesn't seem to enjoy anything, they aren't necessarily just being picky.
Depression can't usually be magically cured by a few minutes of daily meditation or a daily walk around the block (although meditation and exercise can sometimes be part of a treatment for some people who have depression).
Some depressed people take medication, and medication helps make some of us better. Our medication is not a "happy pill." Sometimes it helps some of us experience what normal people feel like most of the time. Sometimes it makes us less depressed but still not normal. Sometimes it makes us different but still not undepressed and still not normal. Sometimes it doesn't do anything at all, or makes us worse.
Some depressed people don't take medication, because sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. If sex is only of your only pleasures in life and your pill kills your sex drive, how would you feel?
Many of us are aware that depression meds are overprescribed. Many of us are aware that pharmaceutical companies are in the business of maximizing their profits. That doesn't mean that our meds are necessarily wrong for us. So unless you have done some scientific research that our doctors don't know about, you might think twice before expressing your negative opinions about our personal use of medications. You might think twice before you brag in our presence about how you would never take any medications, especially if you then turn around and wail that one of us committed suicide and how could they because they had so much to live for.
Depression sometimes takes away our joy. When we lose our joy, sometimes we lose our sense of connection to other people, and to the world in general. When we've lost our connection, sometimes it's really not enough to have people trying to jolly us out of it. Sometimes, even if we love you, your loving behavior toward us doesn't help us feel better. Sometimes your presence just makes us feel guilty. Sometimes we push you away and feel terrible about doing so but unable to do anything else.
Sometimes you just can't help us. And sometimes you can - sometimes it is a great comfort to know another person is willing to sit near the pit we are in. Or wave to us from their own pit.
Some of us go around trying our best to seem normal. You might not know that we have depression, because we have good jobs and loving families and we know how to talk as if we are happy and interested.
Depression sometimes makes us lose our innocence. I'll never be truly shocked to hear that someone else who was intelligent and passionate and articulate has ended their life. I'll never be angry at someone for choosing that way out of their pain. I'll be angry at the fact that the pain can't always be cured, but not at the person.
But not all depression is sharply painful. Sometimes it creeps up on us. Sometimes it's just like driving in a sort of fog, or walking around in a room with too much furniture - something that affects us in ways that we don't notice, rather than being overwhelmingly debilitating. That means sometimes we don't realize we are depressed until it starts getting better (or worse). Sometimes other people in our lives notice first. Sometimes not.
Everybody knows that loss can contribute to depression, but fewer people know that many physical and medical conditions can contribute to depression, even relatively common ones, like anemia or just plain poor sleep.
Along with many other people who have chronic depression, I am a strong, intelligent, capable person. I think it can be a good thing to talk about this condition and how it affects us and how we live with it.
If you have depression or there are people in your life who have it, I think it would be cool if you said something about depression in your own LJ. But I don't intend to cause anybody to feel obligated to talk about something they don't want to talk about.
Edit 9/9 Since several people have asked: Feel free to post a link to this elsewhere. If you feel like leaving a comment here letting me know you've done so, that would be cool, but you don't have to.</b>