Monday, 5 January 2015

You don't have to be sad all the time to have depression

You don't have to be sad all the time to have depression

Does this girl look depressed to you, like she could break down crying at any moment or not think her life is worthy of being here anymore? No? Well this photo was actually taken during one of my lowest points a few years ago, where I was actually really ill. The thing is, you don't have to be sad all the time to suffer with depression. One of the most annoying, frustrating and stigmatising myths about depression is that you are constantly low and never have the feeling of happiness - never smiling or getting out of bed.

Yes, at my darkest points I can go for weeks crying and feeling down. But I don't sit in bed all day and expect things to happen for me - I have things to do, and life keeps moving whether I move with it or not. And I can also go for weeks without feeling down, then suddenly a depressive episode will hit. This doesn't mean that I don't suffer with depression, it just means that I know how to deal with it and am slowly getting better. I think that should be celebrated, rather than chastised for 'pretending to be something you're not'. I also get intense flashes of happiness every now and again, which I think I now feel more strongly due to them being a fairly rare phenomenon for me. I'm sure I was happy at the point the photo was taken, dancing around the garden on a summer's day. Yet the next day could have been completely the opposite for me.

Compare depression to physical illnesses: people with asthma aren't short of breath or coughing all the time, but that doesn't mean they don't have cancer. Those with cancer aren't in pain all the time, but it doesn't mean they're not suffering from it. Depression is similar; depressed people aren't necessarily down all the time, but it doesn't mean they haven't got depression.

I sometimes feel like I should be showing people that I'm feeling low for them to believe that I have depression. I should be lying in bed all day, running out a box of tissues, turning down social invitations and being low when I do go out. But that's not me - I want to make myself feel better, and I don't want people to see me down all the time. I think I would become quite a boring person if I was just sat around being miserable all day, and I don't want to be seen in that way. When I'm feeling depressed I carry on with life - go into university and hospital, see friends and try and have fun. Last summer when I nearly gave up with life I still carried on as normally as I could; that's why it was such a surprise when I started my blog and people found out that I am depressed.

Equally, some people find it easier to express their sadness and look for support from other people. And that's completely okay too. Depression sufferers present in a variety of ways, so you can't say whether people are depressed or not just due to their behaviour - and equally you shouldn't try and change their behaviour, telling them to 'cheer up' or 'act more depressed' to show that they really are suffering. Some people are able to put a front on, others are not; some get periods where they are happy, others do not.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you can't judge a book by it's cover. You can't usually tell whether someone is depressed or has some other form of mental illness just by looking at them, so don't be judgemental about it. If someone tells you that they are feeling down take them seriously and talk to them about it - don't think that just because they seem fine they're not depressed. If you told someone with cancer that didn't have any symptoms that they weren't suffering from it that wouldn't be acceptable. Mental illness is exactly the same.
It's okay not to be perfect. It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to do something that you wish you hadn't done, because if we don't do those things we never grow.
                        - Dawn Stanyon


  1. When I got really sick, I was in my freshman year of college. It started almost instantly after moving into my dorm. I cried every single day for almost 7 weeks before finally getting help through the college. I could barely get the "I don't want to live" thoughts out of my head but I still went to class and did my assignments. I would get pity looks from the professors who could see me crying silently in class. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do but I did it because I knew I had to. So I fully agree with you that depression isn't just being sad and in bed. It's something you carry with you. This was a really lovely post.

    alyssa nicole @

    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes you just feel like you have to carry on and get along with life, so it doesn't slip out from underneath you. It's really difficult but I think it's just what is expected of people. I hope you're okay! xx

  2. What an amazing post! You've put into words so well what I would struggle to explain to someone about depression. Really can't express how much love I have for this post!!
    Reinventing Neesha ♥