So... what is depression?

My mom was scheduled to post this week, but she’s on vacation and helping out another Tiger Mama, so I’m taking her spot for this week’s post. She says hi, and she’ll be back soon. J

I don’t even remember how I got onto this conversation topic with a few friends this week, but I was trying to explain how it felt to have clinical depression and she was just staring at me like I was speaking a different language.

I think the reason people struggle to understand depression is because we are experts at hiding it. Like, they expect some blinking neon sign to appear over our heads. Or maybe we’re supposed to be wearing a special shirt.

Me: “People think it’s feeling sad. It’s not. It’s not feeling anything at all.”

Her: “But you are angry right now. And you have depression.”

(I wasn’t angry, I was passionate. My apologies, they look the same sometimes)

Depression has come to be a synonym for feeling sad. And I’m okay with that. What I rebel against is the idea that clinical depression is feeling sad. But it is so, so much more than that.

It’s a complete lack of anything, a black hole where things go in and they’re never heard or seen ever again. It’s the purest form of nothingness that can ever be felt on earth. Layers and layers and layers of nonexistence. It’s death while breathing. It’s anhedonia (emptiness) wrapped with dysthymia (chronic sadness) with an extra topping of melancholia. You’re watching a movie that you’ve seen thousands of times before, but every time you think you can change how it ends. Rewind, and hit play. Nothing ever changes. You’re a helpless participant in a horrible experiment, repeated on millions of thousands of people around the world.

Sometimes there’s just waiting, waiting for the black hole to consume us. We wish for any feeling in the world to replace this gaping hole within ourselves. Sylvia Plath says “locked away in a bell jar, like slipping into a separate world, but you can still see the old one.” You can be in the same room and completely alone. Skin to skin yet untouchable.

It’s next to impossible to describe it, and it differs from person to person. It can be the dementors from Harry Potter, or like Lizzie from Prozac Nation. The movie, I haven’t gotten around to reading the book. My personal favorite reference is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It’s okay to ask us what it feels like. In fact, I encourage it. It means you care.

But be prepared to be confused. It won’t be anything like what you think it is. So ask more questions. That’s okay. It means you care.

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