“just a bad day”

BY DAPHNEÉ L.

just a bad day

“You’re not really sick.”

“Focus on the positive. Cheer up. Be grateful.”

“It’s just a bad day. Tomorrow you’ll feel better; just wait and see.”

“Go for a walk, have fun, breathe in the fresh air!”

“Just do something about it instead of staying in bed.”

“Someone has it worse than you; don’t feel so sorry for yourself.”

“Life isn’t fair. You just have to get used to it.”

“Why are you so sad, like, all the time?”

“I know how you feel; I was depressed once.”

“You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.”

As listed above, here are ten things you should not, under any circumstances, say to a depressed person. Yet, those affected by depression hear it all the time. The reason is simple: people believe what they want to believe, hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. What a shame.

It doesn’t make sense. Depression is a medical condition. Yes, you read that right. It’s a mood disorder that affects a gazillion human beings every year. Even so, the stigma that surrounds mental illness is one of the worst obstacles a depressed person is forced to encounter.

For those who are ignorant when it comes to psychiatric disorders like depression (no one’s blaming anyone here) and those who are wise enough to have picked up this piece full of advice, no need to be thankful. Prepare to be enlightened, in hopes that next time you meet someone with depression, you don’t end up sounding like a complete asshat.

“You’re not really sick.”

People suffering from depression hear this one nonstop. It’s quite popular, indeed. Wondering why? Well, maybe because society isn’t aware that 20% of Canadians will experience mental illness at some point in their lives. But statistics will do nothing but bore you to tears. The point is, excuse me, but how do you know if I’m sick or not? That’s right; you don’t, because last time I checked, you weren’t me.

“Focus on the positive. Cheer up. Be grateful.”

Another favorite. Let’s examine this one from A to Z. Focus. Whoa, wrong start. A person with depression cannot focus. Lack of concentration is a common symptom. Positive. If there’s one word a depressed person would want to erase forever, it’d definitely be this one. When you’re depressed, all the positivity is sucked right out of you. Gone, just like that. Cheer up. What an enthusiastic combination. Except when you have depression, you can’t cheer yourself up. All you can do is bring yourself down, and you’re not even sure if there’s a net at the bottom to catch you. Be grateful. Instead of telling someone with depression to be grateful for what they have, just punch them in the guts. No doubt it’ll hurt less.

“It’s just a bad day. Tomorrow you’ll feel better; just wait and see.”

Sigh. It’s not just a bad day. It’s a million bad days all at once. It’s a day with no sun, no hope, no silver lining, nothing. It’s twenty-four hours of being stuck in a dark tunnel, while asking yourself, “How come everyone can see the light at the end except me?” People with depression don’t believe tomorrow will be any better, or the day after that. All they do is wait to see if things will fall into place. Perhaps waiting is part of the problem.

“Go for a walk, have fun, breathe in the fresh air!”

For God’s sake, I can’t even get out of bed. Unless you literally drag my body out of bed, I won’t get up. Fun? Don’t you dare talk about fun, Mr. Cheerful. I don’t know what that is anymore. And by the way, it’s not that much fun to have fun when I don’t want to have fun. Don’t tell me to breathe. I am breathing, but it hurts, in case you didn’t know. And fresh air is just a constant reminder I’m alive, which I wish I wasn’t.

“Just do something about it instead of staying in bed.”

Just get out and come back when you’ve done proper research.

“Someone has it worse than you; don’t feel so sorry for yourself.”

Of course someone has it worse. Someone has it better, too. Ever heard of the phrase, “Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else may have it better”? Don’t remind someone with depression there are starving children in Africa and wars in the Middle East. Even the most honorable intentions cannot excuse the phrase, “Don’t feel so sorry for yourself.” It’s an outrage, a scandal. What will it take for people to understand that telling a loved one affected by depression to stop feeling sorry for themselves will only embarrass them and increase their guilt? Not to mention they’ll beat themselves down until they come to the conclusion they are awful, terrible and selfish human beings.

“Life isn’t fair. You just have to get used to it.”

So what, life isn’t fair? Everyone has a personal tragedy. Does that mean depressives should stay miserable for their rest of their lives when they should be seeking treatment? There are these things called antidepressants and therapy. You should mention that and avoid lectures. Only God knows how much time you’re wasting.

“Why are you so sad, like, all the time?”

A foolish question. There’s a distinction between feeling sad and feeling depressed. It’s unfortunate most people don’t see it that way. Sadness is a healthy feeling. Depression is anything but healthy.

“I know how you feel; I was depressed once.”

Are you kidding me? If you knew how I was feeling, you wouldn’t be saying that in the first place. And, if you ever were depressed, you wouldn’t be able to recall when or why or how it happened. How did I fall into the black hole, the one where you can’t tell which way is up? Like Hemingway said, “Gradually, then suddenly.”

“You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.”

A popular variant? Happiness is a choice. Oh please. You don’t get to choose if you’re depressed or not, the same way you don’t get to choose if you’re diabetic or not. It’s common sense. If it was a choice, depression wouldn’t exist. Because depression is being thrown into an ocean. Buried in violent waves. Drifting in endless blue. Depression keeps you right above the water, where you can’t drown but can’t move either. Some might say that allowing yourself to drown and hit rock bottom is the first step towards recovery. Except, who knows if you’ll ever float back to the surface?

For those of you still doubting my knowledge on the subject, two words: I know. I’ve been there. And to me, depression is much more than a medical condition, treatable symptoms and medication. It’s the one thing that drives me absolutely crazy. It’s the monster under my bed, the voice in my head, the best friend I never asked for, the last thing I ever wished for. It has become such an integral part of who I am that I often wonder, without it, would I become so lost I’d stop breathing?

One last piece of advice: Don’t be that asshat drowning in ignorance. Be that lifeguard who helps people reach the shore.

“You’re not really sick.”

“Focus on the positive. Cheer up. Be grateful.”

“It’s just a bad day. Tomorrow you’ll feel better; just wait and see.”

“Go for a walk, have fun, breathe in the fresh air!”

“Just do something about it instead of staying in bed.”

“Someone has it worse than you; don’t feel so sorry for yourself.”

“Life isn’t fair. You just have to get used to it.”

“Why are you so sad, like, all the time?”

“I know how you feel; I was depressed once.”

“You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.”

As listed above, here are ten things you should not, under any circumstances, say to a depressed person. Yet, those affected by depression hear it all the time. The reason is simple: people believe what they want to believe, hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. What a shame.

It doesn’t make sense. Depression is a medical condition. Yes, you read that right. It’s a mood disorder that affects a gazillion human beings every year. Even so, the stigma that surrounds mental illness is one of the worst obstacles a depressed person is forced to encounter.

For those who are ignorant when it comes to psychiatric disorders like depression (no one’s blaming anyone here) and those who are wise enough to have picked up this piece full of advice, no need to be thankful. Prepare to be enlightened, in hopes that next time you meet someone with depression, you don’t end up sounding like a complete asshat.

“You’re not really sick.”

People suffering from depression hear this one nonstop. It’s quite popular, indeed. Wondering why? Well, maybe because society isn’t aware that 20% of Canadians will experience mental illness at some point in their lives. But statistics will do nothing but bore you to tears. The point is, excuse me, but how do you know if I’m sick or not? That’s right; you don’t, because last time I checked, you weren’t me.

“Focus on the positive. Cheer up. Be grateful.”

Another favorite. Let’s examine this one from A to Z. Focus. Whoa, wrong start. A person with depression cannot focus. Lack of concentration is a common symptom. Positive. If there’s one word a depressed person would want to erase forever, it’d definitely be this one. When you’re depressed, all the positivity is sucked right out of you. Gone, just like that. Cheer up. What an enthusiastic combination. Except when you have depression, you can’t cheer yourself up. All you can do is bring yourself down, and you’re not even sure if there’s a net at the bottom to catch you. Be grateful. Instead of telling someone with depression to be grateful for what they have, just punch them in the guts. No doubt it’ll hurt less.

“It’s just a bad day. Tomorrow you’ll feel better; just wait and see.”

Sigh. It’s not just a bad day. It’s a million bad days all at once. It’s a day with no sun, no hope, no silver lining, nothing. It’s twenty-four hours of being stuck in a dark tunnel, while asking yourself, “How come everyone can see the light at the end except me?” People with depression don’t believe tomorrow will be any better, or the day after that. All they do is wait to see if things will fall into place. Perhaps waiting is part of the problem.

“Go for a walk, have fun, breathe in the fresh air!”

For God’s sake, I can’t even get out of bed. Unless you literally drag my body out of bed, I won’t get up. Fun? Don’t you dare talk about fun, Mr. Cheerful. I don’t know what that is anymore. And by the way, it’s not that much fun to have fun when I don’t want to have fun. Don’t tell me to breathe. I am breathing, but it hurts, in case you didn’t know. And fresh air is just a constant reminder I’m alive, which I wish I wasn’t.

“Just do something about it instead of staying in bed.”

Just get out and come back when you’ve done proper research.

“Someone has it worse than you; don’t feel so sorry for yourself.”

Of course someone has it worse. Someone has it better, too. Ever heard of the phrase, “Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else may have it better”? Don’t remind someone with depression there are starving children in Africa and wars in the Middle East. Even the most honorable intentions cannot excuse the phrase, “Don’t feel so sorry for yourself.” It’s an outrage, a scandal. What will it take for people to understand that telling a loved one affected by depression to stop feeling sorry for themselves will only embarrass them and increase their guilt? Not to mention they’ll beat themselves down until they come to the conclusion they are awful, terrible and selfish human beings.

“Life isn’t fair. You just have to get used to it.”

So what, life isn’t fair? Everyone has a personal tragedy. Does that mean depressives should stay miserable for their rest of their lives when they should be seeking treatment? There are these things called antidepressants and therapy. You should mention that and avoid lectures. Only God knows how much time you’re wasting.

“Why are you so sad, like, all the time?”

A foolish question. There’s a distinction between feeling sad and feeling depressed. It’s unfortunate most people don’t see it that way. Sadness is a healthy feeling. Depression is anything but healthy.

“I know how you feel; I was depressed once.”

Are you kidding me? If you knew how I was feeling, you wouldn’t be saying that in the first place. And, if you ever were depressed, you wouldn’t be able to recall when or why or how it happened. How did I fall into the black hole, the one where you can’t tell which way is up? Like Hemingway said, “Gradually, then suddenly.”

“You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.”

A popular variant? Happiness is a choice. Oh please. You don’t get to choose if you’re depressed or not, the same way you don’t get to choose if you’re diabetic or not. It’s common sense. If it was a choice, depression wouldn’t exist. Because depression is being thrown into an ocean. Buried in violent waves. Drifting in endless blue. Depression keeps you right above the water, where you can’t drown but can’t move either. Some might say that allowing yourself to drown and hit rock bottom is the first step towards recovery. Except, who knows if you’ll ever float back to the surface?

For those of you still doubting my knowledge on the subject, two words: I know. I’ve been there. And to me, depression is much more than a medical condition, treatable symptoms and medication. It’s the one thing that drives me absolutely crazy. It’s the monster under my bed, the voice in my head, the best friend I never asked for, the last thing I ever wished for. It has become such an integral part of who I am that I often wonder, without it, would I become so lost I’d stop breathing?

One last piece of advice: Don’t be that asshat drowning in ignorance. Be that lifeguard who helps people reach the shore.

Daphnée Lévesque is a student at the University of British Columbia. You can follow her blog here.

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