The prevalence of depression in women is astounding. Did you know that depression occurs most frequently in women between the ages of 25 and 44? (1) Or that 1 in 8 women will experience clinical depression in their lifetime? Or that about 12 million women per year will experience clinical depression? (2)
On my mom’s side of the family, it seems more like 1 in 1.
There are several things that can contribute to depression:
Just to name a few.
A lot of people and articles talk about what depression is; I’d like to talk about what it isn’t because I think that’s just as important for people to understand.
What Depression is Not…
Self-pity is defined as, “excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles” (GD); this is not depression. You can have self-pity and not be depressed; they aren’t the same thing.
Depression can definitely give us a lot of material to work with and make us doubt ourselves; it’s also one of those things you can’t fully understand unless you have it.
Feelings of being sad in certain situations can lead to depression, which is always a possibility, but depression itself is not sadness; it’s a chronic illness.
I’ll just leave this here.
“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold — with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” – Barbara Kingslover in The Bean Trees
Choosing between cappuccino or coffee is a choice. Anyone who thinks people who have depression chose that for themselves is 100% wrong.
With that said, I do know of some people who don’t want to help themselves who have depression. This doesn’t mean they’re choosing to have depression, but they are choosing to not work on it or get help with it. That was me for a long time until a good friend of mine gave me some tough love.
Somebody choosing to not work on themselves and who are constantly sulking and asking for advice and then not taking it is difficult to be around. It is scary taking the first step to getting help but it’s also the best, hardest and most important step you can take! It will help you and it’ll help the others around you who love you, too.
We have to help ourselves. If we don’t, who will?
In my experience, I’ve never really felt “numb” because of depression. That doesn’t mean other people don’t. The only time I have ever felt numb was immediately after I was raped at 15; also when I tried the antidepressant, Paxil.
I know some people do feel numb but I don’t think people should necessarily associate depression with feeling numb. I personally feel like I feel all the things. I think having anxiety in addition to depression probably helps make that possible.
We all feel depression differently and to different degrees. I just think a lot of misinformed people are quick to assume that people with depression don’t “feel”. I think some of us feel too damn much.
Merriam-Webster defines weakness as the following:
1: the quality or state of being weakalso: an instance or period of being weak2: fault, defect
Always Looking Sad or Upset.
Before I had personal experience with depression, I always thought depressed people looked unhappy. I thought you could point them out in a crowd. The first time my mom told me that a lot of women in our family also have depression. I realized right then that depressed people don’t always look unhappy — quite the opposite sometimes. I never would guess the people she was talking to me about were depressed. A lot of people with depression are really good at putting on a fake smile and hiding it from others.
My kids know that I have depression and anxiety and they know I have struggled, but that doesn’t mean I’m always looking unhappy when I’m around them — unless somebody finished a bag of Doritos I was looking forward to snacking on… because that is such a disappointment! But even then, I can assure you I look unhappy because I’m angry. Haha.
My mom has depression and it was pretty bad during my high school years after she found out I was raped. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the older I get, the clearer it becomes. She was depressed. And having a 12-year-old daughter myself now, I can understand.
She would come home from work exhausted (rightfully so because she works hard but depression made her even more fatigued), wash her makeup off, have some dinner (sometimes in bed) and then watch TV from her bed until she fell asleep. Every night almost like clockwork. I always just thought she was tired from work and I was sure I never wanted to start adulting!
It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time. – Barbara Kingsolver
I don’t want my kids to feel how I do as an adult looking back on parts of my childhood. They keep me fighting. I feel like depression stole my mom from me. I want my kids to look back and remember me being mostly happy despite my depression and fighting like hell.
I’m not sure I’m articulating this very well — especially about my mom. Depression is difficult when you only have yourself to worry about and support. I’m a mom/stepmom of four now and I get it. My mom is without a doubt, one of the strongest people I know. I don’t fault her for anything and now I’m able to understand.
But I do have to admit, I feel like I missed out on her. Or maybe the young teenager in me still misses her. Not really sure if that makes sense.
Aside from my continued healing from being sexually abused (which is like a rollercoaster I can’t get off of); fighting depression continues to be the hardest part of my life (and I have 2 teenagers and 2 tweens!). I just feel like the fight is worth it. I know it is. I want to know I tried everything I could to make our kids feel loved, encouraged and proud of themselves. That’s my job.
If you are currently struggling with depression, I have an idea of how you’re feeling. I don’t know your depression, but I understand. If you aren’t currently struggling with depression but you know somebody who is, I hope these words of mine have helped you understand more about what depression is not. And I hope it encourages you to encourage someone you know who may be struggling right now. It can make all the difference in their world.
Just to recap:
Depression is not self-pity, sadness, a choice, numb, weakness or always looking sad. Depression is an illness that requires some kind of treatment. Depression is different for everyone. It can come and go or it can persist for as long as you live. Or if you’re lucky, maybe even go away for good.
More depression reads:
- Fighting Depression: 9 Simple Things That Make Me Happy
- 5 Powerful Books to Help with Depression and Anxiety and Feeling Less Alone
- “The Doctor Said I’m Fine” – Depression Song by Chloe Adams (tissue warning!)
- National Institute of Mental Health: “Depression: Treat it. Defeat it.” Accessed June 1999. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/depression/genpop/gen_fact.htm.
- National Institute of Mental Health, Unpublished Epidemiological Catchment Area Analyses, (1999).