Recently I’ve had some battles with the postnatal depression – this shouldn’t be a surprise to those who read this blog. It’s not been all consuming but functioning has been a challenge. One thing I’ve heard a lot is ‘I’m sorry you’re feeling sad’.
I’m not sad. I’m depressed.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment and that people don’t want me to suffer. It can be tough and awkward to talk about mental health so I applaud people that do. This isn’t me calling people out for not expressing themselves perfectly – this is me discussing a common misconception.
Depression is often thought of as being ‘sad’: this is a normal emotion and it’s not helped by people who claim they are depressed when, in reality, they’re just a bit sad. How often do you hear people claim they’re ‘depressed’ when really they are just a bit sad, disappointed or annoyed? Depression is a diagnosed mental health condition (like asthma is a lung condition, and eczema is a skin condition). It’s so much more than sadness and, for some, it barely manifests as sadness.
A word that comes up time and time again when discussing depression is ‘numb’. A blank, engulfing hopelessness. Everything is grey, lifeless, uninteresting, pointless and flat. Happiness barely scratches the surface while negative emotions blossom.
Sometimes depression comes alongside anxiety. For some it comes with intense anger. The list of symptoms is massive and, often, surprising. Sometimes it goes beyond the mental and becomes exceptionally physical. An absolute inability to move, eat, sleep, talk, and concentrate. It’s frustrating!
When you hear about a person who can’t get out of bed in the morning, I know there’s a portion of the world that thinks they’re exaggerating. If they have depression, they are not exaggerating. It’s like an anchor tying you to bed. There’s literally no energy there to use and if there was, the fear of moving would be enough to keep a person there. Do they really want to just stay in bed? No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Mostly I force myself out of bed in the morning because my son needs me. At the peak of my depression,this process took hours and my baby would be changed, dressed, fed, and played with while on my bed. His needs were met but mine were neglected. The worst part is the desperate desire to go out, socialise, do things that involve movement, and then being utterly unable to achieve that (which then makes you feel worse, and it’s an ugly cycle).
But the point is: I don’t often feel sad. There were moments when I was suicidal that I didn’t feel sad. A lot of the time it’s a mix of so many emotions it’s an overwhelming whirlpool of hopelessness. Stop telling depressed people to cheer up, to put on a smile, to do some exercise, and think positive. None of that is going to change their hormone imbalance.