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How Do You Explain Depression?


Barachus

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One thing that I've struggled with is explaining my depression to sceptics. You know, the ones who think that depression is "just a state of mind" and that you can choose to change your mindset. Or those who think that I should be able to "buck up" and get better in a short amount of time. Or those who simply think I made bad decisions and will have to simply endure the consequences of those decisions. And how about those who critisize me for not getting help when I needed it instead of waiting until a failed suicide attempt?

I've tried giving pamphlets, directing them to web sites and books, even outright explaining how chemical imbalances work on the brain. But some folks just think that's a bunch of bunk. Am I explaining it wrong?

I guess what I'm really asking is if anyone has really had any success convincing the sceptics that a chemical imbalance is a disease that can totally take over a person's life and cause mood swings that are beyond my control without the proper combination of medicine and therapy?

The reason I ask is because I am now coming to grips with some of my actions when I was totally out of controll. I've said and done some really hurtful things to family members and friends so I could withdraw away from everyone easier. I would like to be able to explain what was going on, and some are giving me the opportunity to do so. But they remain sceptical about the idea that a chemical imbalance is a "disease" and not a disgrace.

If anyone has had even a small bit of success in this area, please share with me how you were able to do it.

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I try to tell people like my family, loved ones, etc. If they never experienced it, I would have to say No, they dont understand, even if they try to.

I think the TV commercials about depression and articles out now are helping people realize how much depressed people are hurting.

I had the best description ever in a book I read about Bi-Polar, I even took notes on the book and gave it to my gp (she wanted it!!). If I can find it, I will post you with what he said.

Take care!! You are not alone!! We understand!! Gentle Sun

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I honestly don't know where I got this quotation ~ it might have even been somewhere on this forum ~ but I use it now whenever I need to explain depression or as a reply to people who tell me to "just get over it" :

"Telling someone with a mood disease things like 'Cheer up. Get over it. Move forward', is like telling a blind person 'Just look harder'."

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I honestly don't know where I got this quotation ~ it might have even been somewhere on this forum ~ but I use it now whenever I need to explain depression or as a reply to people who tell me to "just get over it" :

"Telling someone with a mood disease things like 'Cheer up. Get over it. Move forward', is like telling a blind person 'Just look harder'."

I really like that. And I like the next quote also. Thanks!!! Gentle Sun :hearts:

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There's been this long dark age about depression and mental disorders (the dark family secret) and I think we're at the early steps of enlightenment about it.

I think that many people are deep down afraid of the possibility in themselves and cope with their fears, especially men, by framing it as a matter of willpower or being strong. The term itself, depression, is commonly used for "the blues," which everyone feels so, "Well, I got over it, so why can't you?" is how they relate to/dismiss the issue.

I think the best way to handle the explanation to skeptics is just by being factual and making them responsible for educating themselves about it. That is, go into a kind of "teacher mode":

"Because I love you/care about you so much, I want to explain what happened {insert incident} and why. It was because I had this disorder called {insert diagnosis}. Here are the facts (blah, blah, blah). Here are some resources (blah, blah, blah). I hope you'll take the time to learn more about this, because you're important to me and I need your support through this. There will be a quiz next week."

Certainly, don't argue with skeptics. "I'm sorry you think that way. But I'm not a doctor and I don't even play one on TV, but there's been a lot of research on this condition. Perhaps you can talk it over with your [my] doctor."

If someone says, "Well, I think that's a bunch of bunk" I would say, "You know, if you had cancer or diabetes or some other life-threatening diseases, I'd never be so heartless." And then I'd walk away before I said anything worse... :bump: Oops! :hearts:

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I don't talk about it with acquaintances ~ the stigma and misunderstanding just isn't worth the stress. With family and friends (not that I have many friends now, but a few have hung around) I talk about it terms of symptom management, on an as-needed basis. It's pretty difficult for people to understand the lived experience of depression, if they've never been treated for it. When I'm struggling and they struggle to understand why I'm having trouble functioning, I always frame it in the context of an illness ~ not a character deficit.

In a nutshell, I guess I try to be my own best friend. Don't always succeed, but I keep bringing myself back to that. If I don't believe in myself and the reality of my illness, kinda hard for others to do the same. It isn't easy when depression is so good at eroding self-esteem, when I'm at my worst, virtually impossible. That's usually when I withdraw and only see my doc until the worst is over.

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In my case, the ones who were closest to me wanted to believe that my depression was real. That way I'd be treated and recover....isn't that better than believing that I was weak or lazy?

For others who needed more convincing (not that they were skeptical, they just didn't GET it) it was my eventual recovery that helped them understand. Illness -- treatment -- recovery. It's like a lightbulb goes off in their heads! :hearts: So as you get better, they will get better.

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  • 2 weeks later...

With a look that says "I don't care".

I don't tell many people about my depression. A few people know about it though, my fellow depressed friends and close family. In all honesty, the best you can hope for in most people is that they acknowledge it and shut up about it. Those who have some idea what it's like will pick up on it pretty quickly without your assistance, but no amount of explaning emotions to people who haven't felt them will do you any good.

Just my 2 cents.

:hearts:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh wow - how to explain depression to sceptics.

This is difficult because even though I have been in and out (mostly in) of depression for the past twenty years almost, I have been a sceptic myself.

Until very recently, I doubted that it was a chemical imbalance. Medical health professionals told me that it was a chemical imbalance, but I thought that was just their way of selling their chemicals on me (I have been resistant to meds).

Now, finally, and this just dawned on me VERY recently - you need the medication to get better. It IS a chemical imbalance. A truly depressed person CANNOT just "snap" out of it. Can't just pull up the boot straps and suddenly feel better.

So how can the general population understand this, when I, who have been depressed for decades, could not grasp it myself?

This is why it is important to support each other, and when a depressed person confides in us, we need to tell them what we have learned about it. We can't just keep it secret.

Edited by Tootie
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There was a forum topic a while ago about this. Someone said something that really rang true to me because people cannot understand no matter how hard we try to explain it.

"How do you explain color to a blind man." Think about it...you can use analogies - red is like fire - but unless you can see it you cannot appreciate the subtleties of it or the power of it.

You have to experience depression to understand it, understand how it impacts your thought process, your energy level, your everything.

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I don't talk about it with acquaintances ~ the stigma and misunderstanding just isn't worth the stress. With family and friends (not that I have many friends now, but a few have hung around) I talk about it terms of symptom management, on an as-needed basis. It's pretty difficult for people to understand the lived experience of depression, if they've never been treated for it. When I'm struggling and they struggle to understand why I'm having trouble functioning, I always frame it in the context of an illness ~ not a character deficit.

In a nutshell, I guess I try to be my own best friend. Don't always succeed, but I keep bringing myself back to that. If I don't believe in myself and the reality of my illness, kinda hard for others to do the same. It isn't easy when depression is so good at eroding self-esteem, when I'm at my worst, virtually impossible. That's usually when I withdraw and only see my doc until the worst is over.

I agree with this. I approach it as one would a chronic illness, I have periods of remission and periods where its acute and then I just work on aggressively treating the symptoms. I think the biggest misconceptions occur with recurrent depression. My family never used to understand why I was depressed "again" a year later after it had seemed that the depression had gone away. They figured well I'm taking the meds and going to therapy so I should be cured. Of course, they know better now and realize its not that cut and dried. For some people its a lifelong struggle.

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  • 2 years later...
I honestly don't know where I got this quotation ~ it might have even been somewhere on this forum ~ but I use it now whenever I need to explain depression or as a reply to people who tell me to "just get over it" :

"Telling someone with a mood disease things like 'Cheer up. Get over it. Move forward', is like telling a blind person 'Just look harder'."

I like that, Cookiecrumbs. I usually say something similar along the lines of

Would you tell a diabetic to just get over it? I don't know what you're problem is? If you really wanted to eat sugar you could. That's a load of crap about insulin. Just get over it?

Or if you really wanted to eat sugar, you just have to really, really want your pancreas to make insulin? You just want to go into sugarshock. You're not trying hard enough.

I sure hope not.

A diabetic doesn't produce enough insulin, and a clinically depressed patient isn't producing enough of the neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine, etc.

And for those Tom Cruise jerks who try saying there's no evidence of neurotransmitters, don't know if they are real, etc., well tell them at one point there was no evidence that the world wasn't flat. Or that the sun didn't revolve around the earth. Before the microscope, they had no proof of "cells". Just because they haven't found a way to study it yet, doesn't automatically negate it's existance. And it would be pretty foolish to think that we've already found everything there is to find within the realm of science.

And if they still don't buy it then they're just jerks. Haha.

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  • 1 month later...
One thing that I've struggled with is explaining my depression to sceptics. You know, the ones who think that depression is "just a state of mind" and that you can choose to change your mindset. Or those who think that I should be able to "buck up" and get better in a short amount of time. Or those who simply think I made bad decisions and will have to simply endure the consequences of those decisions. And how about those who critisize me for not getting help when I needed it instead of waiting until a failed suicide attempt?

I've tried giving pamphlets, directing them to web sites and books, even outright explaining how chemical imbalances work on the brain. But some folks just think that's a bunch of bunk. Am I explaining it wrong?

I guess what I'm really asking is if anyone has really had any success convincing the sceptics that a chemical imbalance is a disease that can totally take over a person's life and cause mood swings that are beyond my control without the proper combination of medicine and therapy?

The reason I ask is because I am now coming to grips with some of my actions when I was totally out of controll. I've said and done some really hurtful things to family members and friends so I could withdraw away from everyone easier. I would like to be able to explain what was going on, and some are giving me the opportunity to do so. But they remain sceptical about the idea that a chemical imbalance is a "disease" and not a disgrace.

If anyone has had even a small bit of success in this area, please share with me how you were able to do it.

Lots of really good responses, that helped me - it's good just know how much people struggle with this issue, and that many people are just as cautious as I can be....

It's been sooo many years and what I've discovered is that there are people who don't understand but try to 'imagine' as best they can...they are open minded and believe that depression is very real even if they haven't experienced it themselves.

Then, there are people who I've spoken to that I KNOW have experienced depression themselves even though they refused to acknowledge it...and all they are is angry when I try to explain my difficulties. I think they like can happen with 'abused children' are repeating the cycle of injury used on them and possibly that they used on themselves. These are people you can't and shouldn't try to convince. They have emotional blocks or investments (denial, etc.) that will prevent them from every be willing to understand. And they will be the most likely to hurt you. I think with these people if you must interact with them, you'll need to give them a bit of a concrete explanation for any trouble you are having. It might require a white lie like 'I ate something bad' or 'have the flu'. That's only IF you MUST explain symptoms that are affecting you. If not, then don't mention anything about it at all.

For people who are skeptics but are on the fence, I say it's as real as diabetes or high blood pressure. That before we understood what thunder was we thought it was God that was angry. That having complete understanding of an illness as once was the case with just about ANY illness, doesn't mean it isn't real. And that in time there will be better and better understanding about mental illness and it will be thought about like diabetes is today.

There really isn't a right or wrong in terms of explaining depression, I think the best you can hope for is that people keep an open mind for their own benefit and the benefit of others they meet who are depressed and might not recognize it or seek help. They could be the one to suggest they seek help and that it's not that they are 'weak' it's that they may have an illness that needs care. Anyone and everyone can be the person that makes a BIG difference in the life of someone who is depressed, especially if they are suicidal. Let them know that...that every person that commits suicide MIGHT have benefited from someone reaching out to them before they did it and for that reason alone it's worth it to keep an open mind about mental illness and how real it is...

Someone close to me was suffering a very serious struggle with cancer of the brain, and at one point due to the physical and emotional stress of the illness because very depressed. They'd never experienced clinical depression before though they though they had having had 'the blues' on occasion secondary to life stress.

What they said after a successful response and full recovery to their depression but still ill with cancer made a profound impact on me and please feel free to pass this along. "If I had to choose between having a deadly cancer and having depression, I would chose the cancer ANY DAY. Depression robbed me of the all the things I needed to cope with and fight the cancer...it made me feel alone and like no one cared. It kept trying to steal my hope that I would get well...there is nothing more devastating that trying to fight illness when the every thing you need to fight is being affected deeply'.

I'd had depression but never had such brain cancer...yet I thought that was quite the statement about how tough depression can be and yet they made it through both. So there is hope always even though when depressed we might feel without hope, it's just as real as depression, and if we stop believing in hope then maybe we're a bit like those that can't see how real depression - because we can't see it or get it in that moment it doesn't mean it isn't real.

Sorry I'm going on and it's as much for myself as everyone here...but I hope it's been helpful.

Back to the main topic...outside of people who MUST know or who are clearly very open to it...I don't discuss it as I consider it personal. Only exception is seeing that someone else is depressed and wanting to extend a hand. Sometimes in talking to them I will tell them that I suffer from depression because someone did that for me when I have my first VERY bad episode and it helped me so much, you definitely are left wanting to pay it forward.

Warm thoughts and keep trying to find the people who'll listen. Without knowing it you're likely helping many people and saving lives!!!

All the best!

SS

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Guest Sweetest1

I have bipolar disorder, and a kindergarten age daughter. So we're really open about depression and mental illness, which means she'll tell people in the grocery check out. "mommy looks crappy today because she's depressed. she has bipolar. its not catching like the flu or anything"

You just have to have a thick skin, and a quick tongue when it comes to skeptics. I've made cracks to bald men about regrowing hair, for example. Try to have fun with it, if you can.

bec

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  • 2 years later...

This is an old topic but I would like some new opinions and experiences with this. Recently I told two people about it and they seem to have questions. They believe me but 'm not sure how to explain anything to them.

Also what do you do when a person that knows you are ill asks you how are you today? I know mine state changes a few times a day and I'm not getting any improvement on my state in general so it is annoying me very much. Obviously they think one morning I will wake up and realize I'm o.k.

Edited by absent
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I don't have to explain my depression to anyone. I don't care what they think and I don't care what their response would be if I did tell them. Most people are stupid when it comes to mental health and I don't have the time to waste listening to their stupid responses.

Edited by sober4life
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I'm not really worried. The only people I've told are quite understanding and they want to know more/understand better. The problem is I'm not really good with words and explaining. I know how I feel and I can describe it, but that is not the point.

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Here are a couple of the ways I interpret depression for the more difficult folks.

1. I think EVERYBODY has frustrations. Down days. Troubles. Woes. For some people these days DO NOT STOP. Whether genetically or environmentally, the brain is wired to not let up. EVER. Depression is the Terminator of feeling down. Thus we have meds, therapists and support groups for depression.

2. The meds can WORK. That's how we know it's brain wiring. I took Effexor, Zoloft, Paxil, and Wellbutrin in various combos a few years back w/ little result. Decided to go back on meds a couple of years ago upon advice of my therapist. Tried EMSAM. Virtually as soon as I got ramped up to the full recommended dosage, IT WORKED. The clouds lifted. I started working out, without giving "why" a second thought. I was cheerier, more full of energy. Reached out to old friends. Performed better at work.

I learned a lot from my year or so on EMSAM, as I have from the Bhuddist Order I just joined. Together they've shown me ways to combat this. At some point, I'll probably go back on EMSAM, but for the last few months, I'm holding my own.

Best of luck to all!

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