Depression: The Perception vs. The Reality
Let's break down a few common misconceptions, shall we?
Depression is one of these things that we’ve been seeing a lot more of in pop culture and the media in the last few years, and this is without a doubt a largely good thing. That said, a lot of the portrayals have just been...Bad. Wrong. Incorrect.
The way depression tends to be played out is in an over-glamourised way that, while making depression a part of the conversation, makes it looks effectively the opposite of its reality.
I’d like to include a (massive) caveat by saying: everyone’s experience with depression is different. There is a sliding scale of severity with a variety of manifestations all along the way that give people seriously contrasting results of how they feel. But, without a doubt, there are certain perceptions that are entirely bullsh*t - and these are often the only ones we actually see.
Here are some of those perceptions of depression versus the reality:
Perception: When you’re depressed, it’s obvious to other people.
Reality: Unless you’re incredibly good at communicating/dealing with your emotions, you will try to hide how depressed you are at essentially every turn.
As someone who can’t stop talking and has what could be called a ‘loud’ or ‘bubbly’ (read: annoying) personality, you would think it would be clear when I slipped into a severe depressive period. But not wanting to seem like the party pooper, I - like many people do - made sure to keep that external perception going even in front of my closest friends. People who are depressed don’t often look it.
Perception: Depression is triggered by something circumstantial and can therefore be fixed by changing a situation.
Reality: No matter how good you appear to have it, your brain’s chemicals can f*** you over and make you depressed anyway.
Depression can of course be triggered by some traumatic event (breakup, bad job, family death - you name it), but a) it may take more than simply moving past that trauma to overcome depression and b) that depression may come out of absolutely nowhere. The reason why antidepressants work is because your brain is literally not chemically balanced, which means depression can happen with or without something awful happening to you. It is not always circumstantial.
Perception: Living with depression, even though we know it’s not fun, looks sexy and wistful like a Lana Del Rey video.
Reality: Depression is not showering for three days, breakouts and unhealthy living.
This is probably the most obvious of them all, but being depressed does not make you want to stare out the window and wax poetic about your pain. Depression is not being able to wash your clothes or your body, eating unhealthy meals and rewatching the same series on Netflix you’ve watched 12 times. It’s entirely unglamorous.
Perception: Depression is constantly manic, angst-y and dramatic.
Reality: Depression is, more often than not, just being completely apathetic.
Despite episodes within a depression where some people will experience physical symptoms like severe panic attacks and major mood swings, a lot of the time depression is just the inability to do anything. It’s a lot of lying in bed scrolling through Facebook for hours, not moving from the couch to turn the lights on when it gets dark, or even just staring at a wall for a whole day.
Perception: With all this talk around mental health in the last few years, depression isn’t really that stigmatised.
Reality: Depression is still stigmatised.
This one is key to remember: Even though you’ve heard more about it, seen more people come out about it, and found out more people you know have it, people who are depressed are still scared as hell to say it. Because, in reality, it’s still majorly stigmatised. The talk around mental health has been great, but there’s still a long way to go before people will actually feel comfortable saying they’re depressed.
Again, depression is manifested in so many different ways and it’s difficult to categorise the experience into even just a few categories. But one thing is for sure: it isn’t glamorous and it isn’t pretty.
- Words by Sarah Manavis.
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