Depression is not a choice. Many times, those without depression cannot possibly comprehend what it is like to experience this illness. Depression and sadness are two very different things. While sadness is a common emotion and a part of everyday life, depression is a clinical disorder leading to intense suffering for those experiencing it. People with depression often struggle to get out of bed and to face the day to accomplish daily activities. Many times they are told, “just shake it off,” “get over it,” “suck it up,” and other invalidating messages that suggest that depression is a choice, as if they should be able to simply feel better if they really want to. People who experience severe depression and suicidal thoughts on a regular basis persist through such extreme emotional pain that if it were a choice, they would most certainly choose to feel better.
There have been many “successful,” seemingly happy people who have struggled through a life with depression. Others have ended their lives through suicide. Take Robin Williams, a person who made so many laugh and had fame and fortune, a man who felt such intense depression and emotional pain that death was the only way to stop it.
In the book Darkness Visible, A Memoir of Madness author William Styron writes
“Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self – to the mediating intellect – as to verge closer to being beyond description. It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it in its extreme mode, although the gloom, “the blues” which people go through occasionally and associate with the general hassle of everyday existence are of such prevalence that they do give many individuals a hint of the illness in its catastrophic form.”
He goes on to describe depression:
“…panic and dislocation, and a sense that my thought processes were being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world. This is to say more specifically that instead of pleasure – certainly instead of the pleasure I should be having in this sumptuous showcase of bright genius – I was feeling in my mind a sensation close to, but indescribably different from, actual pain. This leads me to touch again on the elusive nature of such distress. That the word “indescribable” should present itself is not fortuitous, since it has to be emphasized that if the pain were readily describable most of the countless sufferers from this ancient affliction would have been able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones (even their physicians) some of the actual dimensions of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking; such incomprehension has usually been due not to a failure of sympathy but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience. For myself, the pain is most closely connected to downing or suffocation – but even these images are off the mark.”
This post is meant to serve as an informational snapshot for those who are unfamiliar with the intensity of depression. For those who suffer with depression and want help with managing symptoms, know that there is treatment and help is available now.
For immediate assistance please call 911 or 1 800 TALK
For more statistics and information about Major Depression, please visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml