“Pills are so common now — everyone’s overmedicated.” Yeah, because they work. (Fuck you very much, Garden State.) And other ignorant statements frequently made by people who don’t understand depression.
1. “Everyone’s depressed.” No, everyone gets depressed sometimes. It’s normal to feel the repercussion of a bad day — when your boss yells at you and some guy you’re dating just said something marginally offensive over text (“aww you’re so cute!”) and your cat pooped in the shower. And those problems are real! But diagnosed depression is like any other physical illness that requires medication. Like, you wouldn’t say “Everyone has a thyroid problem.”
2. “Just look on the bright side! There are so many great things in your life!” This (many of these, actually) is obviously so well-intentioned that it’s hard to let this person down. Those people are approaching it as if you are looking at a plate of half kale (the good things) and half dog poop (the bad things), and choosing to focus on the dog poop instead of the kale. But depression is like if that dog came back and peed all over the whole plate, and then someone wrapped it in Saran Wrap so that you actually couldn’t access either the kale or the dog poop. In other words, it’s not like you’re deliberating all aspects of your life and deciding to be negative. It’s like a big blanket of exhaustion and sadness that covers the entire thing so you can’t even see the facts of your life for what they are.
3. “You don’t need to be on medication — it’s so overprescribed. Everyone’s on drugs these days.” Yeah, because the medical health world is realizing that mental illnesses are just as serious as physical ones. It’s easy to pass judgment on these kinds of medications because of a few college friends who managed to score recreational Adderall, but for every one of those, there are hundreds of people who have been pulled out of deep emotional and mental holes with the help of medication prescribed by good psychiatrists. You probably know some of them — you just don’t know you do. Basically it’s like saying we should eschew modern medicine in favor leeching and assuming that people are possessed by demons when they actually have syphilis. And you’re not even the sick person! Ugh, get off my lawn.
4. “You won’t be able to do anything creative if you take medication. You’ll be a zombie.” We’ve got Garden State to blame for this one. Thanks a whole lot, Zach Braff. Sure, I used to worry about that. But eventually it became so unbearable that I’d do anything to get better, and I write for a living, so that was a big risk. That should give people who don’t have depression some idea of how bad it can get. Actually, I’m way more productive at work when I’m not having obsessive circular negative thoughts and my mind is clear.
5. “A lot of people have it so much worse.” This falls into the category of “true, but not effective.” I mean, of course they do. In New York you can’t go a block without seeing that. But as the kale/dog poop/Saran wrap argument hopefully illustrates, this isn’t about weighing life circumstances and choosing to be sad. In fact, this actually makes some depressed people feel worse, like they’re privileged and ungrateful.
6. “Happiness is a choice.” Have you ever noticed that clinically depressed people — regardless of their lifestyle, their income, their gender, their location, their political or religious views — deal with the same feelings? I’m tired, my life has no meaning, I feel doomed, hopeless, worthless, and I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. You bore yourself with your own repetitive thoughts. It’s not like you’re enjoying or wallowing in your negative feelings. Nobody’s choosing to feel this way. And some depressed people can’t afford to stay home or afford medication or live in an area where mental illness is taboo.
7. “Do you have PMS?” DO NOT EVEN.
8. “All you need to do is exercise more.” Any decent shrink will tell you that exercise helps, since it triggers feel-good endorphins that help with depression. But full-on depression isn’t cured by exercise alone, and it’s not like depression is caused by a lack of physical activity. My depression and complete laziness are separate.
9. “You’re just being dramatic.” As Hyperbole and a Half’s Allie Brosh puts it in her fantastic two-parter about depression, it’s weird and scary to feel debilitating depression for no reason. It’s not a moody, emo, “I wonder how many people think I’m super-cool because I’m staring out the window looking pensive and listening to sad music” kind of feeling. It’s an incredibly unglamorous, “why am I crying in front of FedEx Kinkos, I haven’t washed my hair in five days, I’m tired of living” kind of feeling.
10. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Obviously this is someone who cares and means well — but as far as depression goes, what doesn’t kill you really sucks, tells you to shower way less than you should, and hopefully, if you see someone for help and take care of yourself, goes away eventually. (It does.)