The plight of the depressed, aside from depression itself, is the continually being misunderstood by those who cannot accept that others are not as happy as they. “Turn that frown upside down,” they tell us, friends and therapists alike. “Just think happy thoughts,” like the solution to our problems is a simple formula and golly, I didn’t know it was so easy. But our problem isn’t simply that we’re not happy—people with depression can feel happy, at times. Our problem is the elephant in the room, it’s depression, this disease that makes living so painfully difficult that not living starts to look like a good replacement. So maybe I can explain it, at least a little.
In our best times we lie through our smiles. We can “turn that frown upside down” but it’s only to please others. It looks good on the outside, but inside we’re still frowning. We can “think happy thoughts” but there’s no joy in them. We’re not fooled. You cannot lie yourself to happiness, but you can lie to others to appease them. And so we do, because it’s easier than explaining and watching their eyes glaze over from being sick of hearing it again or listening to the superficial sounding platitudes of someone who doesn’t understand.
In our worst times we collapse and watch helplessly as the fragile dikes we built with the last of our hopefulness crumble and panic and despair flood in. If we cannot hide you will finally see how we really feel. This is when we cannot lie anymore; we cannot flip the frown because our whole world has flipped on us. Here the tears come to even the most resolute of us. In our desperation we look for any way out. Not all of us make it. The persistent Choice demands to be made; always there, an escape, and many survive only through hasty, desperate excuses or bald cowardice.
And every day is the struggle to keep from falling apart. It takes so much just to live. Life is exhausting when you have to find a reason for every breath, and every breath it’s harder to find another reason.
I can only speak from my own experiences. Every person is an individual, so not all symptoms are the same and no cure is universal. But that is, to some degree, what it is like to have depression. So please pardon us if it sounds like we’re making excuses. Sometimes they’re all we have.
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