Depression Is Not One-Size-Fits-All
Depression is not one-size-fits-all. However, if you had asked me a year ago to describe someone suffering from depression, I would have given you a generic and straight-up basic answer. My response would have gone something like this: An individual who is depressed is sad and doesn't enjoy pleasures that were once joyful. I'll be honest, my answer is not incorrect, but I can't seem to shake the hint of judgment in my tone birthed from ignorance towards depression that I had at the time. I would even go as far as to say that I had an unconscious bias towards the illness and mental health issues in general; little did I know, depression, like people, comes in all shapes and sizes.
Depression Can Present Differently
My experience with depression may appear similar to others, but in actuality, each person's mental health journey is unique. The National Institute of Mental Health lists 13 different signs and symptoms of depression, stating that:
"Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many."1
When I went through my bout with depression, my coworkers had no clue what was happening. They had no clue how much it drained me to get out of bed in the morning, the force behind every smile, or the emptiness behind every compliment.
The truth is medication, therapy, and support got me out of a very dark and scary place, but unless you were those closest to me, you would never know the details of my inner struggles if I hadn't started writing articles about just that. I'm not sharing my story to boast about my ability to put a front on at work and trick my coworkers into thinking it was all rainbows and unicorns for me. I'm sharing to illustrate that depression, both its severity and appearance, can be different for everyone, with the ultimate goal of ridding people of biases accompanying the illness.
Ridding the Stigma that Depression Affects Everyone the Same Way
My point in all the examples and anecdotes is that diminishing any form of depression--among the million states it can take--is unfair to the person experiencing it. For some, depression can present as being unable to get out of bed. For others, it's a forced smile at work on the way to your third breakdown this week in the bathroom you share with your boss. (Yes, that person in the bathroom was me.) It is not an act of tough love to tell an individual who may be experiencing depression to "toughen up" or "grow a thicker skin;" it is an act of recklessness.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, February). Depression. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved June 22, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression
Jack, J. (2022, June 23). Depression Is Not One-Size-Fits-All, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2022/6/depression-is-not-one-size-fits-all