Depression Misconceptions

Why “just getting over it” is not possible

Haley Elder, Entertainment Editor

Why can’t you just get over it? This is the question often directed at those battling depression; a question I often found I was asking myself. Many wonder about, misjudge, and mistreat those struggling with mental illnesses without fully understanding what exactly those individuals are up against.
There are a multitude of misguided beliefs about depression. Most people do not realize the full extent that the effects of depression can have on someone, nor the effects of their mistreatment. As a survivor of clinical depression, I found that my depression became even worse in an unaccepting environment. The stigma against the mentally ill is one of the many reason why we can’t just get over it.
As defined by the Mayo Clinic, “depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” This is a simple definition—in reality there is so much more to depression. Depression is commonly thought to be black and white; on the contrary, depression is a wide spectrum of color, with many different causes and effects that differ from person to person.
Depression is not an uncommon mental illness. According to the World Health Organization, it affects an estimated total of 350 million people worldwide. This means, more likely than not, that someone you know is facing depression. However, even though so many people are affected, there is still a strong social stigma attached to the mentally ill. Typically, those facing depression are thought of to be weak, lazy, and incapable of dealing with their feelings. What the majority of people do not understand is that those battling depression are faced with a lot more than just feelings of sadness.
It is difficult to understand what a person struggling with depression is going through if you have never experienced it yourself. However, it is import to try and understand what depression is in order to approach it appropriately.
Since depression is often thought of as excessive sadness, the majority of people question why one is not able to get over their depression as quickly as one gets past feelings of sadness. To me, depression was not only feeling sad, but feeling anger, fear, isolation, and numbness. In the darker times of my battle it was difficult to express my emotions. This lead to a separation between me and my family and my closest friends.
Yet, depression is more complex than just feelings; it goes below the surface. It is oftentimes thought that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but this does not fully capture the complexity of the illness. In a study done by Harvard Medical School, they suggested “depression does not spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, depression has many possible causes, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems.” It is believed that a combination of these factors lead to depression. One cannot “just get over” their genetics and stressful life events such as divorce, death, and economic struggles.
In addition, those who are depressed are often looked upon as weak or unstable. However, depression is not weakness. Those who are depressed should not be looked at as victims.
The stereotypes of people who are suffering from a mental illness are not only incorrect, but dangerous. The stigma against the mentally ill makes it even more difficult for them to complete everyday tasks. It is harder for one to get and keep a job, open up to others, seek help for their problems—to even feel normal. It is difficult to even get out of bed in the morning when it seems as though all odds are against you.
When I was fighting my battle, I found it hard to go through my day as I normally would. I would barely eat or talk to anyone. I could not focus during school. I could not make myself do homework. As much as I tried to “just get over” my feelings and my mood, I was not able to for a very long time. It took a lot of help and acceptance from the people around me.
But now that I have overcome it, I would like to reach out and help others who are in the same boat I was in. Depression is a real issue, real people are suffering, and although it may seem easy to overcome—it is not. There are actions we as a society can take to reduce these feelings of isolation, loneliness, anger, and anxiety. As a whole, we need to realize that we cannot shame someone for something they cannot control. We need to realize a mental disorder is not something we can just get over. With time, I hope to see a growth in the understanding of depression and better treatment of those struggling with it.