What People Don’t Get About Chronic Depression

By Gordon Corsetti, Skyland Trail adult programs graduate

“Why don’t you just get over it?”

That question, and variations on it, are the bane of those of us with chronic depression. Believe me, I would love to get over it but just like you don’t flip on the happy emotions I don’t switch off the depressed ones. What tends to get in the way of understanding is this idea that people can just swap their emotions on a whim with very little regard for the situation in which they find themselves.

We do this all the time with young kids: “Cheer up!” we shout, hoping that an infusion of our energy will lead to improved emotions from the little ones around us. Or we just feel uncomfortable being around such an emotionally-compromised individual that we go the wrong direction and try to pump them up with urgings to simply be happier.

Here’s the thing: if happiness were that easily attained the wellness industry would collapse in a week.

Human beings are complicated, our emotions even more so, and if we have to factor in chronic depression we can be downright hard to deal with. I know, because I’m one of those individuals with chronic depression. I’m thirty-four now and started experiencing symptoms of depression at fifteen. That’s nearly twenty years of sadness/grief/self-hatred. It is not something that I simply get over, and suggestions that I do are, at best insulting, and at worst increase my pain.

Pain increases because I realize the absurdity of my situation. I’m well-off, physically healthy, and with a stable income. There are people out there who would kill to be me for a day, and yet I couldn’t be grateful for what I did have and instead focused on how depressed I was. Well, that is exactly how depression works. I could have the bank account of Jeff Bezos, the inner strength of the Dalai Lama, and the smoldering good looks of David Beckham and still hate every aspect of my life. It doesn’t care about the external factors surrounding life.

What you must understand is that depression gets a vote. Even if your friend or a family member has every advantage in the world, they can still be kneecapped by their depression. One of my favorite lines ever comes from emergency psychiatrist Dr. Paul Linde, “It’s not logical; it’s psychological.” Too often we try to put logic around how people feel, but that isn’t how chronic depression works. It eats logical arguments for breakfast and then serves up heaping piles of shame that get force-fed to the person until they puke.

If you want to support someone with chronic depression, cultivate the mentality of a life preserver. Your role is to give them something to grasp onto when life is buffeting them around.

Just listen, don’t judge, and try your best not to give advice.

Photo of Gordon C

This post was penned by Gordon Corsetti. Gordon, a Skyland Trail graduate, is an author, public speaker, and advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness; writing regularly on his website mentallyagile.com. He collected various tools in the pursuit of his permanent recovery from depression and anxiety. Gordon writes about philosophy and different modes of thought that he experiments with to refine his perspective on life. He speaks to the uniquely human ability to change our minds and shows how to use tools to accomplish that change.

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