There is a popular misconception that depression is the same thing as sadness. I understand why you might think this if you don’t have experience with depression. Depression is sad; it’s true. But depression is a lot of other things as well. It’s a whole new echelon of sadness. It’s sadness 2.0.
This morning is a good example – I woke up depressed and the experience is nothing like sadness.
We all experience sadness. Sadness is a normal, human emotion. It’s simply the expression of unhappiness or grief. We all need to do this as we move through life. Sadness has a cause even if we can’t initially pinpoint it. Sadness has a beginning and an end.
We do not all experience depression. Depression, I would argue, it not a normal human emotion. Depression is the expression of extreme pain. Depression often occurs without cause. Depression has no defined end point.
I woke up this morning with depression thick around my neck. I lay on the dark chocolate brown sheets of my bed knowing it was going to seem impossible to move my muscles. My cat was crying outside my door for breakfast but even his plaintive mews didn’t make the idea of moving very convincing.
Once vertical, I realized I wanted to eat ice cream. I always want to eat ice cream when I feel terrible. My brain thinks it will make me feel better, even though, of course, it won’t. My cat got fed as I silently admonished him for his whining and I got peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, coffee and water – my typical breakfast.
After about three crackers I found myself awash in tears, agony standing on my chest.
I had been awake for 20 minutes.
Depression is not Sadness
I was not sad. I was broken-hearted. Shattered-souled. “Sad” is a tiny word that is an order of magnitude off from how I felt.
Because depression isn’t about sadness. Depression is about pain. Unrelenting, unending, boundless, merciless pain.
There’s no reason for how I felt. There’s nothing wrong. My life is the same as it was last night. And yesterday. And the day before that. Everything aligned as normal as can be. But depression couldn’t care less about that. It’s a disease. It’s a disease that exerts pain. It doesn’t need a reason.
The people who think depression is the same as sadness are simply people who have never been chained to the ocean floor condemned to drown, over and over.
Sadness is normal. Depression is not.