Do you think you’re depressed?
People ask me that sometimes. Friends. Family. Even some ballsy people who don’t know me very well.
My immediate response is usually, No. Occasionally, I add something like: I’m just working through some things.
How could I be depressed? Depressed people don’t get out of bed and shower and put on clean clothes and go to work. Depressed people don’t dance when a good song comes on or sleep out for Hamilton tickets or go to Red Sox games. Depressed people don’t host holiday parties and laugh around the campfire.
Sure, sometimes I leave the house at midnight for McDonald’s fries because I haven’t eaten since breakfast, and then I drive around blaring music and singing/crying/screaming along at the top of my lungs until 3:00 a.m. But that’s just me being weird.
And it’s true that most mornings I don’t want to get out of bed, but I’m not a morning person. I get up and then I find staying in one place impossible. I have to keep moving, go somewhere, do something else. I’m too anxious and restless to be depressed.
Some days there is this emptiness, like a vacuum, in my chest, and it’s worse when I cry, which I do a little bit every day and a lot other days. But that’s nothing new, really.
Yeah, I find myself asking things like: Does life matter? Do I matter? Is any of this even real? Because time and existence and consciousness are all a bit far-fetched. But who doesn’t wonder about that?
To me, depression has always been the label for people who are so emotionally tanked they can’t keep a job or take care of their kids or take care of themselves. I know people who have struggled with that kind of depression. It is no joke. So why would I dare compare my (what I assume will be) temporary affliction to their suffering?
I’m not saying I’m above the label of depression. I’ve lived with anxiety disorder all my life and I share pretty openly about that. And in recent years, thanks to an abundance of articles about mental health, I’ve learned a lot about depression. I’ve learned that depression that won’t go away doesn’t always look like a non-functioning adult. Depression can look a lot like me.
At the same time, I don’t want to do a disservice to the understanding of depression, the range of symptoms and severity, and the reality of what it means to be incapacitated by the condition. I think that labeling every level of persistent sadness “depression” may do more harm than good.
I feel like I need a different name for whatever I have – something between sadness and depression. So when people ask, Do you think you’re depressed? I can answer, Nah, just got a little Eeyoreosis. No worries.This way I can simultaneously inform people that yes, I am so sad that I physically hurt but no, you don’t have to worry about me taking my own life tonight.
Seriously though, maybe we need a depression spectrum – kind of like they have for autism. But not to peg people to a specific place on the spectrum, so we know what to expect of them at all times! Rather, I think a spectrum approach would enable us, as a community, to acknowledge and remind one another that depression is different for all people; depression is fluid – meaning it often changes in intensity day by day; and even that depression has a wide range of closely associated symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, digestive issues, and so on. Like most things in life, depression is not one-size-fits-all.
I guess, as a person who sees in shades of gray, and who has dealt with this from various perspectives, and who really hates labels, I would like us to just do this better.
Thoughts, ideas and suggestions welcome.
© Nichole Q. Perreault