“The experience of convulsive pain, along with the conviction that it will never end except in death—that is the definition of a severe depression.”
There’s a lot of misconception, stigma and just plain nonsense being said about depression.
People suffering from depression have trouble explaining what it feels like and the people around them have trouble understanding what it actually means to be depressed.
This gap in understanding causes an agonising pain for the depressed because it makes them feel completely alone and separated from the people close to them.
I already mentioned 5 hurtful things people say a lot that you shouldn’t say to someone with depression.
It can even lead to someone deciding that the only way out for them is suicide.
I believe the more understanding we can create, the better it is for everyone in this world.
To help bridge the gap of misunderstanding, I want to share a definition of what depression actually feels like.
Before we get into what this agonising pain of depression feels like, it’s important to get two very commonly heard misconceptions out of the way that are being said about depression.
Let’s start with looking at those misconceptions about depression first, or click here to skip to the definition of depression down the page immediately.
Let’s get into it:
2 Commonly heard misconceptions about depression
Here’s number 1:
#1 Antidepressants don’t work and only make the problem worse
The point of antidepressants isn’t to solve all of your problems; it’s to keep you from feeling overwhelmed so you can begin to solve them yourself.
Now, I’m not a doctor but I am pretty sure this is how it works:
Antidepressants are usually sedatives that take away the rough edges of your emotions.
Yes, that means it also numbs the positive sensations.
Big f*cking deal.
It’s the means to an end.
It’s job is to numb the agonising pain and self-hatred you experience when you’re depressed so you can do therapy, discover your unhealthy patterns and create healthy thoughts and habits to begin to recover without getting exhausted by the depression.
People need that bit of energy to do the work that’s needed to stay alive another day.
The “work” of the drugs is to soothe the rough edges of people’s feelings.
Whether they will “work” as in “make the person better” is not just up to the drug.
Antidepressants surely won’t “work” to better the person’s life if the one taking them is not receiving the proper support. Professionally and personally.
If you are a family member who is bashing on someone taking antidepressants, you are just reinforcing negative beliefs and you are doing the contrary of what is needed at this point.
You need to help figure out if there is a psychological problem like destructive habits, beliefs and thought patterns that’s been hindering this person’s life for years, often even subconsciously.
It’s important to understand this function of antidepressants: That they numb all sensations, not to “keep you dumb forever” but so you can take the first steps to recovery without being exhausted all day by the weight of your depression and anxiety.
#2 Depression is just a fake illness. You think the president would have time for “depression”?
First off: You don’t become president if you are not in TOP shape mentally and physically.
Plus, as a president, you get access to the very best psychological help in the world.
Governments will make sure the president is in top-notch condition.
So comparing us to a president is comparing apples with oranges.
We can be fine too, if we had all the help and support in the world. (Even though you don’t believe that’s possible when you are in a depression)
Secondly, depression is NOT something we consciously choose because we had so much time left and we didn’t work hard enough to focus on other things.
You’re insinuating that if we would just work hard and focus on big things, we wouldn’t have time to be depressed.
This statement is a clear sign you haven’t even come to understand a sliver of what depression really is.
(That’s okay though, because this post and this whole website should help with that ?)
When you say: “You just need to work hard and focus on something good. That won’t leave any room for a depression”, let me tell you this:
Depression can happen to anyone.
Depression seems to be the last way for the body to warn us that we have a big problem in our life and we are not taking care of it.
So if you are someone who tells a depressed person: “Sitting around on your ass is not going to help. You need to work!” you do not understand at all how to handle a depression.
If you are constantly keeping your head down, grinding, day in day out and being bitter to the world (which is what you are when you say depression is fake and people should work harder)…
It means you yourself are just not at the point yet where you understand and recognise your body’s signals.
What you are doing by working so super hard is stuffing all your negative energy away.
For some people it might even take all the way until they are retired or on their deathbed to realise they neglected something.
And they will be incredibly sorry for not having acknowledged it when it was happening.
So, if you are someone who says things like this to a depressed person…
You might want to take it easy and check if you have some unsolved issues yourself that are making you push away your emotions and body’s signals with “hard work”.
You should definitely not say this about depression because it only creates more misunderstanding which can drive someone with depression off the cliff of suicide.
Someone with depression is already full of self-loathing, so guilt tripping and shaming them into feeling even worse about themselves will do no good whatsoever.
Now, let’s try to understand what depression really feels like and why people who commit suicide are not selfish at all.
What depression really feels like
Certainty that an acute episode will last only a week, a month, even a year, would change everything. It would still be a ghastly ordeal, but the worst thing about it—the incessant yearning for death, the compulsion toward suicide—would drop away. But no, a limited depression, a depression with hope, is a contradiction. The experience of convulsive pain, along with the conviction that it will never end except in death—that is the definition of a severe depression.
This phrase: “A limited depression, a depression with hope, is a contradiction.” is so crucial to understand.
Try to let that land…
Hope cannot co-exist with a severe depression
Hope and depression are mutually exclusive.
It means they cannot exist together.
When you have hope, depression is far away.
When you are depressed, hope disappears.
If you truly grasp the significance of this, it also becomes easier to understand people with suicidal tendencies.
When suicide seems like the only solution
Look at the last phrase of the quote: “The experience of convulsive pain, along with the conviction that it will never end except in death—that is the definition of a severe depression.”
If hope is absent, and the future consists solely of unending agonising pain….
What is your way out, then?
Death, is what a lot of people think.
So, can you blame them?
How can you say someone who kills himself is selfish?
People say: “Well, it’s selfish because they don’t think about the fact that they are hurting their families because they loved him/her and it hurts to lose someone you love.”
But it’s important to really understand this:
A severe depression feels like your flesh is put on an electrified grid; a dentist’s drill tearing at an exposed nerve; a raging migraine….
For a depressed person to understand how committing suicide could “hurt” someone…
He’d have to imagine someone loving him/her, right?
Because that’s how you can evoke a reaction like “Oh, no, I see now, that would hurt them a lot. I don’t wish that upon them.”
It’s just that…. that thought process is exactly what a severely depressed and suicidal person is not able to do anymore.
Pay attention here…
Why people who commit suicide are NOT selfish
So we agree that to evoke a change in behavior you first need imagine how other people would feel if you killed yourself.
So let’s go:
The depressed person has to step out of his own reality….
Put himself in your shoes, look at himself from a distance and now imagine that he is you, right?
He now looks at himself from a distance and tries to imagine that he loves that person…
Then, he needs to imagine what he feels when that person would die.
Then, a feeling of sadness of sadness should arrive and he would have to think: “Oh no! I wouldn’t want my family to feel what I am imagining now.”
But hold on,
Let’s pause for a second here.
This process that is very normal to a lot of people….
It simply doesn’t exist in the mind of a depressed person.
This thought process breaks from the moment the person with depression needs to picture himself from afar and imagine someone loving him/her.
It doesn’t happen.
You can’t imagine that.
The capacity to feel ANY good or lovely emotion is inaccessible.
It is so hard to understand for “normal people”.
But this is the reality for so many of us.
It’s impossible to imagine you are loved and thus impossible to imagine the pain someone would feel if you were gone.
Do you want to call that selfish?
It’s the opposite of selfish.
NOT being able to imagine that you are loved or good or deserve anything positive at all is the EXACT OPPOSITE of being selfish.
You are not “taking everything for yourself”… No.
You are disowning everything.
You are making yourself worthless…
Less than ANYBODY else.
It’s the contrary of being selfish.
What does it take for people to understand the severity of this?
What does it take for people to open their eyes and open their arms to a depressed or suicidal person?
I hope you get this.