By Kimberly Zapata
For the last 16 years, I have struggled with depression. That means I have had 16 years of highs and lows. Sixteen years of ups and of downs. And 16 years of therapy — for 16 years I have been chasing a cure. It also means I have had 16 years to “hear things,” i.e. to be the recipient of well-meaning, but misinformed, comments. To hear good-intentioned, but unsolicited, advice. To receive encouraging yet completely misguided remarks. Remarks about my “problem.” Remarks about the state, and severity, of my illness. Remarks about why I cannot have depression, because I do not look depressed. Because I have too much to be thankful for. Because I am too strong.
Make no mistake: I know these words come from a good place. A supportive place. An empathetic place. In fact, their intention is why I have never written about them before. However, these “helpful” remarks can hurt. These well-intentioned words can be harmful, and some of these comments are actually dangerous, especially when someone is deep in the throes of a depressive episode. And for that reason — and that reason alone — I feel compelled to share a few of the things I beleive you should never, ever say to someone struggling with a mental illness. To someone struggling with depression.
1. “It’s OK; everyone gets depressed.”
The truth is this: Not everyone “gets depressed.” Sure, people may experience grief or hurt or waves of extreme sadness; in fact, people can even “feel depressed. But sadness is a feeling and depression is an illness, and these two things are different. Very different. How so? Because depression — the disease — is chronic while sadness, sorrow, and/or “depressed feelings” are temporary. They almost always have a cause, and they are almost always the byproduct of an outside event (such as death, divorce, or the loss of a job). Make no mistake, the symptoms of depression can be intensified by external factors; however, these events do not cause depression. Because depression is a disease: a disease caused by chemical, biological, environment, and genetic factors.