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Just Cheer Up

Living with Depression and Why This Doesn't Work

Often, people with depression and anxiety are told to just smile or cheer up. They are told to think about how good they have it. Unfortunately, if you have never experienced a mental illness firsthand, it is difficult to see what is actually happening and what’s behind it. There are many reasons for mental illness to occur, and it can occur in a variety of people from many different backgrounds. It can be a chemical imbalance in the brain; it can be caused by environmental factors, and many other reasons, some that may not have been discovered yet. There is still a lot about mental illness we haven’t discovered or don’t understand yet.

People generally have good intentions while trying to help someone suffering from depression. While you may be thinking that you are helping by telling someone to cheer up or reminding them how good they have it, this point may be moot to them. Think about it like being stuck in a hole. When you have depression it is similar. It’s something you feel like you may never get out of. Now imagine throwing them a shovel and telling them to just dig their way out. You have good intentions, you’re think you’re helping, but you really are not.

I’m not saying that it’s not ok to suggest coping mechanisms to someone, I am saying that you have to understand where they are coming from and what they are going through. Someone who has a chemical imbalance may not improve by just cheering up or talking to someone. They may need actual medication from a licensed doctor, and that is OK. Therapy is not bad, and people have seen positive results from it. I have been through it myself, and with the right therapist whom you feel safe with, it can be a great experience. I wouldn’t dismiss any coping mechanisms unless they worsen the depression or cause self-harm.

Most people don’t realize the toll that depression takes on you. There’s the obvious overwhelming sadness; but there is also exhaustion, lethargy, insomnia, lack of appetite, so on and so forth. You want to go do things but you can’t make yourself. It’s not a pity party or a weakness; it’s a legitimate illness that can stop you in your tracks. From personal experience, I have trouble sleeping and concentrating when my depression starts getting bad. It’s not something that you can just always talk or work through.

People tend to think that those who are depressed and commit suicide are selfish. While I understand their thinking, I don’t think they truly understand depression. They don’t understand that their brain will not let them process what’s going on at that moment. They don’t understand that they feel like they are out of options. While I don’t mean to sound insensitive, suicide is as old as the time. From Samson destroying a building to the Japanese art of Hari Kari until today, it continues to happen. It is always tragic when it happens, and it leaves lots of voids in people’s hearts when a loved one takes their own life. If we could find a way to prevent everyone from harming themselves, it would be amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will ever happen.

Please understand that this happens to all races, backgrounds, and social classes. It’s not just poverty stricken groups; it happens to celebrities and other wealthy people as well. Depression does not discriminate, and it can hit anyone at any time. It is also nothing to be ashamed of. It is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of illness. The more we listen to and learn about depression, hopefully the more lives we can save.

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