You can easily see the pain of a person who breaks a leg or suffers from another injury. And everyone knows that cancer and diabetes are terrible diseases. It’s not as easy to see the pain of someone who suffers from an invisible illness like depression.
We aren’t talking about “the blues” here. Everyone gets low sometimes, but clinical depression is a serious illness that isn’t immediately apparent. It can significantly impair a person’s normal activities in daily living. It is also is one of those invisible illnesses that many people don’t understand. If they haven’t suffered themselves, it is hard for them to wrap their head around an illness that they can’t necessarily see.
What some people don’t understand is that clinical depression isn’t just inconvenient, it’s debilitating. Aaron Anderson from Family Share explains that because some people think it’s just a “bad sadness,” they also assume the depressed person should be able to continue on with life until they get over it. That’s not often the case. Depression is different from regular sadness because it persists over time despite every effort to “get over it,” and it keeps people from being able to live the life they want to live.
For those who battle depression, it can be difficult to try and explain it to those who don’t understand. Some people say “just try smiling” or “you’ll snap out of it.” According to John F. Greden, M.D., the executive director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, these phrases often stem from a lack of understanding of depression.
“When [loved ones] don’t understand what’s happening, their responses are ‘suck it up’ and ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself,'” Greden explains.
If you suffer from serious depression, here are a few ways to deal with people who don’t understand your invisible illness:
Hang out with people who do. It can be tiresome to deal with people who don’t understand your battle. Surround yourself with people who do. Find a support group, or stick with the family and friends that do understand.
Try to educate.Therese Borchard from Everyday Health suggests that if you have a concise article or powerful essay that conveys the essence of your struggles, you should share it.
Be ready with comebacks. It’s helpful to have a few phrases ready to throw out when someone tells you to snap out of it or to just be happy:
“If it were that easy, believe me, I would have ‘snapped out of it’ by now.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
“Interesting; I’ll have to try that.”
The insensitive comments might not stop, but you can be ready to respond.
If you haven’t talked to anyone about your depression, it’s important that you do so. Treatment is available, and it helps to know you don’t have to go it alone.