Depression Is An Illness, Not A Feeling

Depression Is An Illness, Not A Feeling

We need to be okay with not only having the conversation, but initiating it.


If you look up "depression" on Google what comes up is "Feelings of severe despondency and dejection." Now, look up another illness, for example - Crohn's disease. It says, "A chronic inflammatory DISEASE." Depression is more than just a feeling, it's an illness, and it is also a disease. It is not just a person's reaction to an environmental situation. Environmental factors can instigate an episode but do not cause a person to have anxiety or depression, just like stress and certain foods may cause the symptoms of Crohn's disease to get worse, but they do not make a person get Crohn's disease. I am not saying anxiety and depression are like Crohn's disease, but I am saying that when we have a disease or illness it is out of our control. When someone tells you they have Crohn's disease or any widely understood disease you feel sympathy and empathy for what they might be going through. This is not the common reaction when someone says they have a mental illness.

My mom has had Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's disease for 30+ years. When she was first diagnosed, she was told to relax. She felt crazy because she was trying to control it but obviously couldn't. She had a disease for which there is no cure, but there are ways to manage it. For 10 years, I have had Panic Disorder. I was diagnosed 5 years after symptoms started. We did not know why I was feeling the way I was. Five years with no relief, 5 really hard years leading me to depression, leading me to think about what the point of all this was, 5 years where I could have been treated if only there had been more information available.

If only I knew there was a reason behind all of it, and I was not crazy. I had extended periods of time when it was so bad, I was not myself. I did not know the person pacing the room and neither did my close friends and family. I literally felt possessed and could not control my thoughts and the physical response my body had. I was not the only person going through this then, and I am certainly not the only person now. I had no idea that there was, in fact, a way to make this better. Unfortunately, there are many people for which we still don't know a way to make it better. No magic cure for anxiety and depression like no magic cure for Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's disease.

Luckily for my mom, there have been great strides in the treatment of her disease. She works very hard at trying to control the things in her life that might cause a flare up, just like I do. She reads medical research and professional journals, just like I do. She has good days and bad days, just like I do. She cannot magically turn off the disease, just like I can't and just like everyone else with depression or anxiety can't. I am lucky to have parents and friends that take my disorder seriously, but unfortunately, others have told me to "Get over it," or "It's just in your head," and so many people are told this. I have made great progress this year with an increase in medication and the introduction of a new one that gives me enough relief so I can sleep. As I've written about before, I see a counselor weekly working on exposure therapy and strategies for what to do on the bad days. I'm not embarrassed and talk about it openly. More importantly, my family and friends talk about it. I have a mental illness. I put myself out there in hopes I will help others. There is so much judgment and misinformation about anxiety and depression, which is why people are afraid to talk about it, afraid to admit that they are NOT okay, and in fact, it's OKAY to not be okay.

We live in a world where we want everything to be perfect.

You don't see people posting on Instagram and Facebook saying, "Today was quite a hard day. I had some trouble getting out of bed this morning, but I did it and I'm working every day to find things that make me happy." God forbid, I posted a Selfie saying something like, "Anxiety got the best of me today. Tomorrow's a new day." BUT WHY, why can't we be real, why can't we let others know that we are going through shit? Because I guarantee you looking at everyone's photos of them smiling and laughing, there are bad days too behind all those photos. We all go through things and it's time we start being there for each other instead of judging each other.

It's unnerving hearing that a friend or family member is having a hard time getting through the day. Don't respond with "It will get better." Don't brush it off. Take the time and let them talk. Ask questions that show you are truly interested in how they are feeling. Tell them they can call you anytime or that you will come keep them company if they want. It can take a long time to diagnose anxiety and depression and then months for medication or interventions to help. We all need to start being more present for each other and ourselves. Be ok with your own bad days and those of others. Make yourself vulnerable and share your feelings and hopefully, others will follow, you never know who you might help.

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Sorry I'm A Size 00

But I'm not really sorry.

My whole life I’ve been thin—which is kind of an understatement. Every time I go to the doctor I get the same “you’re underweight” lecture that I’ve heard every year since I was able to form memories. I’ve never really felt insecure about my weight, I love being able to eat everything and not gain a single pound. Since my freshman year of high school I’ve probably only gained 8 pounds and I’m now a sophomore in college. Of course, in school, there were rumors that I was anorexic or bulimic, but everyone who knew me knew that was far from the truth. I’m now 19, 5’2, and I still have yet to break 100 pounds on the scale. It seems that there is a lot of skinny shaming going around and to me, one of the main contributors to that is the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this because skinny girls get all the praise and other body types are neglected. That’s really not true, though. While loving other body types, you are tearing down skinny girls. Why is it okay to do that to skinny girls but not to other body types? Why is it okay to say “only dogs like bones” or say “every body type is beautiful” until you see a model's abs, or ribs, or thigh gap and then tear them down because they’re “unnaturally” skinny?

The point I’m trying to make is that, as a naturally skinny girl, I have never shamed anyone for their body type, yet I go every day and get at least two comments about my weight. I’m always the skinny girl, the toothpick, but I’m not Jessica. Yeah, I’m a size 00. Get over it. If you have an issue with my body and feel like my body is disgusting to you, don’t look at it. I know that I’m healthy and I don’t need your input when my body just naturally burns calories fast. I don’t have an eating disorder and never have. I am real beauty though, and I know that because I’m comfortable in my own skin. So maybe the real issue is that we as a society have been shoving certain body types down our daughters’ throats so they begin to romanticize models that have certain standards that they have to meet, who work hard for the bodies that they have, and are making a hell of a lot more money than most of the people discussing why they look emaciated while what they’re actually looking at is the photoshopped product.

I’m not going to apologize for being skinny when that is just how my body is, I can’t help it. So please, stop tearing my body down while trying to bring your body up. You can praise your body without shaming skinny girls. Shaming me for being thin does not make you better than the man that shamed your body, just as me shaming you for being curvy does not make me better than the man that shamed my body. As women, we need to love each other because we are the only ones who truly understand each other.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria's Secret Untouched

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To The Girl Who Is Fine With Not Being OK, It's Time To Address Those Issues

It may not have seemed like addressing your issues was a big deal, but addressing them is the first step to resolving them.


Confrontation has always driven you: away from your problems, away from your friends, away from yourself. You have become a person who loves helping others, but I ask you this: where is that compassion for yourself?

When things get tough, it's hard to distinguish what exactly may be the root of the issue. Oftentimes, it's easier to clump your emotional disarray into a response like "Well, I'm here," or "I don't know [what the problem is]." That response is where it stops. You find yourself questioning not what the source of these feelings is but rather how you can mitigate the number of questions being thrown your way about how you feel or why you seem so out of it.

You need to take a step back. Reflect. Assess. Process. Proceed.

Nothing good will seem to happen until you take a step back. In some cases, you may need to take a few. You take on new projects, more work, and more responsibilities. Instead of confronting yourself, you are building a shelter around yourself. It's easy to interpret this as moving on - have you thought about the impact?

There could eventually be a time when things go well. Your shelter is secure, warm, and you feel like you can finally breathe after your efforts.

There could also be a time when things do not go well. Your shelter, so trusted, falls. Suddenly, you face the storm that was brewing just outside of its walls. Trapped and scared, you're left to confront the mess and the storm outside, that emotional storm that you have inside of you, or scramble to pick up the pieces.

More often than not, you rebuild. And rebuild. And rebuild.

How many times must you barricade yourself in and not allow yourself to feel before you lose sight of yourself? Each time your shelter falls, the mirror cracks. It doesn't seem so bad at first. A hairline fracture in the glass. Repeat the process enough and there won't be a mirror left at all.

You may not have to pick up the pieces, but rather the shards in order to save it: your self-image. The way you view yourself affects not only the way that others view you but who you are and how you interact with the world and the people around you.

One day, you'll hit an epiphany. You deserve the same care and love that everyone does. You deserve to feel OK.

The storm brewing inside you is terrifying. After spending so long in your makeshift home, it may seem even more daunting.

It's OK to be scared. It's OK to not know what will happen in the eye of the storm. The most important part is that you experience the rain. Dance in it, play in it, and more importantly, accept it.

The rain will cease, and the sun will come. The wave of relief that washes over your skin will leave you wondering why you ever hid from the initial problem in the first place.

The next time you encounter this crossroads of confronting the issue, you may find yourself looking to build that shelter again, and that's alright. You are human, and only you can find the inspiration to address the issue.

When the time comes to bring a little light on yourself, just remember: take a step back. Reflect. Assess. Process. Proceed. Repeat until the problem is solved.

One day, you won't rely on that shelter. I'm rooting for you.


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