What Depression And Anxiety Aren’t

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By De & Kate

We hear a lot about what depression is and what it means. About the fatigue, and the sleeping, or the lack there of. About the weight gain and the weight loss. About the lack of interest and irritability.

We also often hear about the fear and isolation of anxiety. About its physical manifestations and its all-consuming nature. We hear about the symptoms and impact of mental health disorders daily, through magazine articles and TV ads, through talk show segments and sit-down interviews. We know that depression and anxiety often accompany one another.

We wouldn’t volunteer to take depression or anxiety on; yet millions of Americans struggle with them, or other mental health issues. And because of the stigma associated with them, many of the millions suffer in silence.

Here are some fast and sobering facts:

The facts speak for themselves – an overwhelming chunk of our country’s population is suffering from depression or anxiety, and yet, many choose to do nothing about it – because of stigma and stereotype.

Stigma marks a person as being different. In general, we don’t like being different. We don’t want to stand out as being separate or apart from the rest of our peers. It takes us back to elementary school, wanting to fit in.

Our society is still lacking a general understanding of – and way of dealing with – mental illness. In order to reject stereotypes, we must start with understanding the truth. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is currently sponsoring a “Stigma Free” pledge to tackle this very issue.

Similarly, many public figures are now opening up to share their personal mental health histories. When we see celebrities like Demi Lovato, Hayden Panettiere, and Kristen Bell  acknowledge their experience and daily struggle with bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, and anxiety, we’re reminded that no level of income or fame shields or exempts us from the reality of being human, of encountering hardship, and experiencing feelings, some pleasant and others not.

We’re also reminded that in finding the courage to share the parts of our life that don’t always look pretty, we no longer have to pack away our feelings with shame or resentment. When we allow our perceived scars and darkness to be seen, we discover they didn’t need to be hidden in the first place.

In addition to knowing what depression is, and what anxiety is, it’s also important to understand what they aren’t:

Depression doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your life and that you aren’t grateful for it. It doesn’t mean you aren’t ever happy.

Anxiety doesn’t mean that you’re an unstable or irrational person. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to control your emotions, or that you are hysterical, or over-emotional, or any other negative adjective the world wants to throw at you.

Depression doesn’t make you less of a person. Much like the physical scars we carry, and the health issues we encounter and deal with throughout our lives, our mental health is one more piece to the incredibly complex whole of who we are.

Anxiety isn’t the same thing as worrying. There’s nothing worse than someone telling you, “Oh, don’t worry about that!” It is not the same. Anxiety is a very real and actual illness. Please don’t reduce it to being a “worrywart.”

Depression doesn’t just mean that you’re “sad.” Everyone feels sad from time to time – but not everyone suffers from depression.

Anxiety doesn’t mean that you just need to “calm down.” If you could control your anxiety, you would. Mental illness, by all definitions, is something that is very difficult to control.

Depression does not define you. The same way that having an overactive thyroid doesn’t define someone, neither does depression. You are not defined by your illness. You are still your own person.

If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ❤

{featured image via pexels}

2 thoughts on “What Depression And Anxiety Aren’t

  1. sabayoub says:

    Yes!! Thank you for writing this. I also write about anxiety and suffer from it. I’ve been stigmatized by some of the things you wrote. It is very frustrating

    Like

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