Depression. Such a misunderstood term.
I have encountered many well-meaning folks that believe they understand the nature of depression. Non-depressive people cannot understand what it means to suffer from this disease any more than a blind person can understand the color red, or a deaf person Mozart.
I believe most people think depression and sadness are the same. This belief is given away with a single question: what are you depressed about?
The words “depression” and “sadness” are not synonyms.
The difference can be explained simply as this:
Sadness is a temporary lowering of mood. Depression is a chronic condition.
Sadness can be a symptom of depression, however, it is not depression itself.
People who do not suffer from depression cannot truly understand this…and we should not try to get them to understand all the causes of depression and what in means to live with it.
Rainer Maria Rilke, speaking of living with “solitude” (what he calls living with the artist gift) says this:
Avoid providing material for the drama, that is always stretched tight between parent and children; it uses up much of the children’s strength and wastes the love of the elders, which acts and warms even if it doesn’t comprehend Don’t ask for any advice from them and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.
~From Letters To A Young Poet
I feel we should treat those around us the same way. Why burden them with that which they cannot understand? I often feel the need to explain that there is no answer to the question “what are you depressed about.”
I cannot answer the question… seeking the answer with them would burden them with too much grief. Those that know my story have to walk around with it in their heads…and that is too much for them to bear. It is not fair to them.
A better question is, “how are you coping with your depression?”
That one I can answer.