Unless you have suffered from depression, it is impossible to know what it’s really like. Even if you grew up with someone who suffered from it, you don’t know what it’s like to be depressed. You just know what it’s like to live with someone who is depressed.

From the outside looking in, depression looks simple. It looks like a prolonged period of sadness and negativity caused by something obvious or tangible. For happy people, it seems like their friend or family member is choosing to let themselves be dragged down by something rather than fighting for their own happiness.

The truth is that depression is so many things and because of this no one understands it. The best neuroscientists in the world still don’t know for sure what causes depression. They don’t know how it works, why it is so different for everyone or how to cure it.

Thus, the only thing you can rely on is how people experience it. Here is what depression is really like according to those who live with it:

Depression Is Not a Choice

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If you’re not depressed, you might think that depressed people have a choice in the matter. It seems like you can choose whether you want to get over it or fight it. But the truth is that depression is not something you choose. It doesn’t matter if you’re strong or privileged, depression can hit you whether it makes sense or not.

In an interview with Elle, Miley Cyrus opened up about how people reacted to her depression: “I’m the most antimedication person, but some people need medicine, and there was a time where I needed some too. So many people look at [my depression] as me being ungrateful, but that is not it—I can’t help it.”

Depression Is Not Sadness

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Feeling down or sad is not the same as being depressed. Depression affects your whole body. It’s not just your mind that is difficult but your whole body reacts.

In a tweet, @suxicidal says, “#TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs when simple tasks like getting out of bed, going out, eating, sleeping or showering become a mission.”

Life with depression feels less like a gloomy day and more like a Sisyphean effort. Some people struggle to find the mental and physical will to get up and go to the bathroom and perform other necessary functions. That is more than being upset.

When your whole body is telling you “no” almost every single day, you’re not just sad. You’re depressed. You are not trying to overcome obstacles. You are trying to free climb Everest.

Depression Is a Daily Challenge

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Depression is something you wake up with every day.

Certainly, some days are better than others. Not everyone who is depressed feel that every single day drags them down further. Similarly, a single good day won’t turn their depression around either. In fact, @roxiqt tweeted that “#TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs when you have one good day, people assume you are cured and should be better now. But that’s not how it works.”

This sentiment begs the question: does depression ever get easier?  The answer is no.

Sofia Hansen, a Quora user, said “I feel like people often fail to mention the guilt, shame and how doing “simple” tasks as talking to a friend is exhausting, and that not everyone has the energy to wear a mask.”

Depression Is Different for Everyone

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Scientists don’t know what causes depression in different people. Some reports suggest our increasing use of electronics, such as smartphones, which have already been linked to infertility, are the cause of the disorder. Part of this confusion is because people describe their depression so differently. People experience different symptoms depending on their brains, their personal lives and the kind of depression their facing. However, there is one thing that most people can agree on and J.K. Rowling says it perfectly:

“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced… It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”

Depression is not about being sad or having a series of bad days. Rather, depression is something that hits you like a truck, sometimes without warning. It is not a mix of sadness or happiness. In fact, for some people, it is the negation of all feeling. Depression is not a choice because if given the option, no one would willingly choose depression.

Next time you think you know what it is like to be depressed, take a step back. Because until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you have no idea how hard it is struggle everyday against something as crippling as depression.

Featured photo credit: ryan melaugh via flickr.com

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