This might not apply just to me but I’m going to act like it does because I can only ever speak for myself. When I say I’m not depressed, I mean a lot of things.
I’ll list them out, then we’ll jump into it.
- I am not actively in a major depression
- I may be suffering from a depressive episode
- I may be sad, upset, angry, etc
- My anxiety may be high or low
- I am not suicidal, I am not suffering
- I am all right…or all right enough to not want to talk
- I am not depressed
Quite a few things. But it’s a pretty loaded statement especially coming from someone who has suffered from major depression. For me, once people knew I had been depressed my words lost their value. Part of why I started this “What I mean when I say” series of blog posts. So now, when I say I’m okay or I’m not depressed, people don’t believe me.
I do mean that I’m not depressed. (We’ll start with bullet three). But I’m allowed to have a bad day or even a few in a row. I’m allowed to be tired, cranky, sad, angry, anything. Just because I’m sad about something or just having a bad day doesn’t mean that I’m depressed. I’m allowed to have a rough day. People who suffer or have suffered from depression, anxiety, etc and have come through are allowed to have a bad day. They are allowed to be sad.
We are even allowed to have a minor depressive period.
Bullet point number two.
Sometimes for unknown or known reasons, I’ll have a week or so where I’m just depressed. I’ll buckle down, keep getting through but I still won’t say, “I’m depressed” because I know what my patterns are. If I’m extremely stressed or if several bad somethings happen I might hit a bump in the road.
And that’s okay.
Moving onto the first bullet point on my list, the most important thing I mean is that I’m not suffering from major depression. I dealt with major depression for years and years. There was no light in my life, I couldn’t see anything other than my struggle. That’s what I focus on when I say I’m not depressed. I’m happy with my life, myself, my situation even if it’s rough. I’m not struggling to laugh, express myself, get up in the morning, or do what I love to do (save the occasional writer’s block). I am mentally well. That’s my personal difference. I can say I’m not depressed because, having spent years in it, I know what that horrible thing feels like. And I just don’t feel that way.
Which is hard for people to accept.
I understand. Society has created this idea that once we have a mental illness we are never rid of it. And for loads of people that is the case. But for me and my depression, it isn’t. I got better. I worked very hard to be out from under a dark cloud and I’m better.
All right, next one. Bullet number four: my anxiety.
I don’t talk quite as often about my anxiety because I don’t feel the need to. For a very long time, I had extremely unmanageable anxiety and even now I struggle with it. But my depression and my anxiety never walked hand-in-hand, though I know that’s the case for a lot of people. I didn’t even realize how separate they were until my depression started to recede.
They stemmed from different issues. They manifest at different times. But because they’re two of the most commonly discussed mental illnesses, I’ve run into a lot of people thinking they’re one in the same, you can’t have one without the other kind of deal.
Nope, not true.
I still have anxiety, and I’m still working on it but it is unrelated to whether or not I’m depressed. I can be happy, free of depression, and still have an anxiety attack.
All right, next!
I’m not suicidal and I’m not suffering. A few times when I say, “I’m not depressed” I’m met with the statement “Are you sure? You’re not going to kill yourself right?” Which is obnoxious. I understand (trust me I do) worrying about someone’s mental health and their life, but I don’t sympathize with people who are trying to prevent suicide just so they don’t feel bad. It’s the equivalent of giving someone who is struggling a casserole when they really need someone to pick up their medicine, walk their dog, etc. It’s very selfish. You do it and say it to make yourself feel better.
So when I say I’m not depressed, take my word for it. There’s a fine line between ignoring someone who is in need of help and giving each individual the respect of trusting their words. But, we can respect what someone says and simultaneously watch what they do to understand about them. Right?
This requires a lot more effort on our part. We have to engage more with the person. Ask questions about how their life is going, open ourselves to empathize with them and learn how to be there for them.
But that’s a big topic that I haven’t figured out yet.
So let’s focus back on what I mean when I say I’m not depressed. I really might mean I’m all right or kinda cranky and not willing to talk about it. A lot of times, like when asked, “Are you okay?” I’ll say I’m fine not because I’m 100% perfectly fine but because the problem is a small one or I just don’t feel like getting all riled up over something. I already wrote an article but it’s worth mentioning again.
The bottom line is simple. When I say I’m not depressed I mean I’m not depressed. I also mean that I’d like you to respect what I’m saying now even though a few years ago I was struggling very hard to be normal and happy. I’m there now. I promise. Ten years from now I might be somewhere else. But here, today, I’m not depressed.
And that’s all there is to that statement.