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.

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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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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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Poetry On Odyssey: Depression Isn't Taken Seriously Until You Commit Suicide

According to society, until you commit suicide, your feelings aren't valid.

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"You're only seeking attention." Until you commit suicide.

"You just want everybody to feel sorry for you." Until you commit suicide.

"You're not actually stressed out." Until you commit suicide.

"You don't actually feel that way." Until you commit suicide.

"What do you even have in your life to be depressed about?" Until you commit suicide.

"You're just not trying hard enough to be happy." Until you commit suicide.

"You just like to complain about your problems." Until you commit suicide.

"Depression isn't real." Until you commit suicide.

"Your life can't be that hard." Until you commit suicide.

"You have too many good things in your life to feel that way." Until you commit suicide.

"You're just trying to be negative." Until you commit suicide.

"You're just psycho." Until you commit suicide.

"You don't know what struggling really feels like." Until you commit suicide.

"The world doesn't revolve around you." Until you commit suicide.

"It's not like it's the end of the world." Until you commit suicide.

"You're not actually sad." Until you commit suicide.


No one takes your depression seriously, until...you commit suicide.


If this article hits home, it's okay to speak up. Seek help if you need it, you are not alone.

National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

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