Depression is more than just being sad all the time, even though that’s probably what it sounds like. For us who’ve been diagnosed and living with clinical depression (what’s up, I’m one of you), there’s no snapping out of it. “Sucking it up” and “getting over it” isn’t an option sometimes and there’s no easy “cheer up” fix, either. There are some days when nothing can bring you joy and you have no energy. It can be a dark place to be in. Whether you’re predisposed genetically, something happened in your life that triggered it, or something else, depression is the absolute worst and I wouldn’t wish it on my own worst enemy. It’s an ongoing illness and even on your good days, it’s still chilling out in the corner, silently letting you know it can pounce and absolutely wreck your mood at any moment. Sounds fun, right?
Unfortunately, people might not believe you if you say that you’re concerned that you might have clinical depression, especially if you’re a young girl. Well-meaning authority figures will tell you you’re just being dramatic, it’s just your hormones, you’re overreacting, blah blah blah. It happened to me and I spent over ten years actively not getting treatment because people in my life just chalked it up to me being sensitive and quirky. But, if you know something’s off, it’s worth reaching out and getting help. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover mental health, your school’s guidance counselor should be able to guide you towards some helpful resources.
So, to help you along and to maybe put some words to a very weird, awful thing you may be feeling, I asked some friends who’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression to describe what it feels like for them. It’s different for everybody and we all have different symptoms and triggers, but ultimately, more people than you may think actually have it and just talking about it with someone – with no goal of “helping” each other – can wind up helping you a lot. I don’t know you, but I hope this opens up a dialogue for you with yourself or with someone you trust. In case you want to know, this is what depression really feels like.
Depression Is A Trap"It feels like everything is wrong and you can't see the light. You feel trapped and almost suffocating like there's a weight on your chest."One way depression can commonly manifest is exhaustion. Getting up off the couch can be a huge chore. It's similar to how you can't move around if you have a really bad stomach flu, except it's with an overwhelming sense that something's wrong and your head is overflowing with negative thoughts.Mad Max: Fury Road
Depression Can Be Paralyzing"Sometimes it's so exhausting that even if I'm hungry or need a bathroom, I'll stay in bed until it's unbearable."Depression, when it gets that bad, can leave you feeling paralyzed. Sometimes, you lose your appetite or feel the need to binge eat. Even if getting up and moving is technically good for you or provide some form of relief, it's not that you don't want it, you physically can't bring yourself to take action. Your brain has stuck you there and you can't get up.Orange Is The New Black
Depression Is A Test You're Designed To Fail"It feels like taking a test you didn't study for and being expected to get an A+. Or giving an answer to a question someone just changed."Just when you figured something out, it switches. Right when you start to feel better, you get autocorrected back into your depression. Even the act of figuring all this out is depressing. The expectation that you're supposed to ace something you keep failing at - and that thing is just "live your life" or "try to be normal" - can really get you down on top of everything else that's going on.Edge Of Seventeen
Depression Can Make You Feel Guilty For Having It In The First Place"It's also feeling guilty for not being happy you won the birth lottery and have privileges and health care and Netflix and married, living parents. And it's shame for not being tough enough to handle life."Yes, nothing is "technically" wrong with your life, so why do you feel this way? You shouldn't feel this way. What kind of privileged, spoiled life do you have that you have the audacity to have depression when there's so much good going on in your life? See what I mean about the guilt and shaming thoughts? The thing is, depression doesn't discriminate. Anyone can have it regardless of certain privileges or things in your life to be grateful for.Thirteen
Depression Is Demoralizing"It's feeling pathetic when you just can't make yourself get out of bed. It's knowing that exercise and seeing people could help you feel better if only you had the energy to, but you're genuinely exhausted. It's not knowing who will understand and who will tell you to just cheer up. It's putting on too much makeup to compensate for not enough sleep and too much crying."Trying to function with depression can be totally hellish. You know what the alleged solutions are, and if you didn't have depression, you might go do them, but since it's knocked the wind out of you already, you can't, and then you beat yourself up for not Being Better, then the cycle repeats itself and makes itself worse. Fun, right? The Royal Tenenbaums
Having Depression Is Like Running After Something Always Out Of Reach"Depression is essentially this darkness that follows you around. You can see some form of light, but god it's so far away. I can try running towards it and it's like it just keeps moving out of my grasp."No matter how hard you try, getting out of it can feel totally pointless and as exhausting as running after something that's always going to outpace you. What makes it worse is that you know that the "light" is out there and that you shouldn't feel this way - that there's a slight possibility you can get out from under this - but it's always just out of reach. Even dealing with that constantly can be depressing in itself.Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Depression Feels Like A Kind Of Cancer"It feels like cancer, like something is eating my body from the inside and I can't make it stop or go away."It's an uncontrollable, unseen force that eats away all of your energy, want for social interaction, and capacity for joy. You know it's there, you know it's bad for you, but it feels like a monstrous part of your body you can't stop or control. Or at least, it's very difficult and sometimes the treatment makes you feel bad in different ways, like some bizarre trade-off you didn't ask for.The Virgin Suicides
Depression Is Your Worst Friend"It feels like that friend that you've known for forever so you keep them around - but you don't actually want them there. It's always there to remind you of your faults and shortcomings when you are finally feeling motivated and proud of yourself for once. You will believe every word this thing is telling you and it takes that much more to fight it. And luckily, every time you are able to stand up to it that much sooner and with just a little less hesitance in your voice."I had to tell my friend this was the most evolved way I've ever heard someone describe depression, because if you've had it for a while, it feels like an important, immovable part of your life, like a long time friend. So, even though you hate it and have to constantly stand up to it, it's always there and it's okay to feel not alright about what life might look like without it. It's your most problematic, awful friend who won't stop.Blue Valentine
Depression Is A Real, No Joke Illness"One thing that I'd really like teenagers to know about depression is that you need to treat it as any other illness. Prior to me [...] being put in the mental ward of a hospital (yeah, that happened), my doctor said to me, 'Would you go to the hospital if you broke a bone or you had a severe flu?' The answer is obviously yes. 'So, why treat depression any differently?'"Part of the shame or stigma around having depression is that when you try to describe it, it just sounds like sadness or symptoms your other friends can get under control, but the thing about clinical depression is that there's no control over it. It's a real illness than can have real consequences and should be handled that way and if you're lucky enough to be able to get help, you should take that opportunity when you're ready.Girl Interrupted
Do you have depression? What does it feel like for you? Is it hard for you to talk about? Let us know in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.