Let’s talk about depression. It’s such a deadly thing and yet no one wants to talk about it, much less, seems to understand it. And yet with all the recent deaths of celebrities, we can see just how deadly and important it really is.
As someone who has struggled nearly all my life with this, I think it’s super important that we talk about it and I’d like to start by clearing a few things up, because I’ve read and heard well-meaning people’s comments and they don’t help.
Comments that tell people how ‘good’ they have it, or that they should just be “happy” or “grateful for” their life, don’t help. In fact they hurt and they do more harm than any of us want them to.
First of all, depression is not a “happiness” issue. Most people, including myself, have been happy at numerous points in their lives. These celebrities were probably pretty happy when they got that Oscar or won that Emmy, I’m guessing. And neither is it a “thankfulness” issue. They were probably thankful for their kids, their spouse, their job even, up to the point they pulled the trigger.
It’s not a lack of success or happiness (as we can see in the case of famous people) that causes a person to be depressed. It’s a lack of belonging. A void of connection, perhaps, that when a person feels alone, you can’t just “cheer them up” by talking about all their blessings to them or snap them out of it by pointing out how good they have it. It doesn’t work like that, and if that’s your first instinctual response, then you’ve probably never experienced real depression, or real darkness.
You’ve probably never known the depths of loneliness that can seep into your soul at night when you’ve got “everything” and yet you feel “nothing” and the shame of that suffocates and overwhelms you.
You’ve probably never wrestled with that deep unbearable guilt, the guilt that says “you shouldn’t be feeling this way. There must be something wrong with you.” and makes you realize that even though you have it all (friends, money, a house, kids, a good job) you still feel empty. Unhappy. Alone. I imagine it’s the same kind of guilt that maybe Anthony Bourdain felt or Kate Spade might have experienced and ultimately convinced them that they weren’t worthy anymore.
But didn’t they “have a good life”?? Didn’t they have SO MUCH to be thankful for??? Yes. Yes they did.
Thing is, we all have a good life compared to the people in Syria or Sudan and yet we all have pain too, and that pain is REAL whether emotional or physical, and it won’t go away because you chanted some happiness mantra over yourself or suddenly became thankful. And it’s definitely not going to stop just because someone told you to stop. feeling that way.
If you know someone who’s depressed, it’s far better to ask them why they might be feeling that way, and validate them, rather than guilting them for feeling the way they do. Their feelings are always valid, and there’s always, ALWAYS a reason for them.
Maybe it’s that they have it all on the outside but they still feel empty on the inside? Maybe it’s that they have people all around them and yet no one really knows them? No one really KNOWS their struggle? Maybe they can’t connect somehow to the “friends” they do have? Maybe it’s high levels of stress or low levels of serotonin?? Or, maybe it’s just simply a belief system they’ve had since childhood that says they’re ‘not good enough’ or that they’re flawed somehow and don’t deserve all the good things they have?
Depression can be so many things, but rarely is it just a matter of being thankful, being happy, “getting over it”, or moving on. Often there are real underlying issues that need to be addressed, pain that needs to be heard, and trauma that needs to heal.
So, enough with the shaming and the comments about a person “having such a good life.” Trust me. They already KNOW that! They already know they should just be thankful. And that’s part of the problem!
We’ve got to stop marginalizing and making depressed people feel “bad” for feeling the way they do. We’ve got to change our thinking and we’ve got to stop thinking it’s a thankfulness or a happiness issue. We’ve got to stop isolating and start including. We must quit demonizing and demoralising and start actually walking with people. Eating with them, talking with them, listening to them, and start treating this as the real issue that it is:
A loneliness problem.
By now we all know that depression is an epidemic in this country. The suicide rate of teenagers and celebrities is staggering and on the rise and yet our institutions have ZERO long-term success rate. Perhaps it’s because we’ve made depressed people feel even worse about themselves by berating them and telling them they should just be thankful they don’t live in Sudan. They should just be happy with the spouse/job/life they have.
Maybe it’s time to embrace the people in our lives who are depressed and show them how ‘normal’ they actually are by getting off of our own ‘high horses’ of pride and premonition and admitting that we too have felt hopeless or sad or not good enough, and then maybe we can all heal.
Maybe we can all be kinder and a whole lot more understanding of our weaknesses, while reminding each other of our worthiness, because we are ALL worthy. We are all worthy to be here whether we are thankful or happy or sad or struggling, and we are ALL worthy of love, no matter what the good, the bad or the ugly emotions that we feel.
WE ARE WORTHY.
Yes we need to talk about it and this is what we need to talk about when we talk about depression, because this is how we heal and this is how we win this thing after all.