Seeing Depression from the Outside

Depression, to me, means sadness. To others, it encompasses much more pain, time, and energy combined into a state of emptiness and hopelessness for the past, present, and future. I have read many definitions, and I know the warning signs, the symptoms, the effects of the mental disease. What I don’t know is how it actually feels, and this is the most important aspect of knowing what depression actually is, and how it truly affects the individual. As someone who has never experienced depression, I could never imagine living in a life where happiness and positivity is not in sight. To get more of a perspective that opens up these deeper and raw feelings, I talked to one of my closest friends, asked them questions, and compared my broad answers to theirs. In doing this, I have learned so much more in what it means when someone says they are “depressed”. Here are the questions I asked my friend, the answers they gave me, and the thought process I had while hearing their answers:

What is depression (definition in your own words from experience)?

Depression, for me, is detachment. It is a feeling of such overwhelming sadness that it paralyzes me.

My descriptions are succinct and not as emotionally driven as their answer was while they were explaining what they felt to me. The term “sadness” does not truly encompass how hurt and alone one can feel while experiencing depressive episodes, which is something I was not completely aware of going into this.

What do you experience when you feel depressed (mentally and physically)?

I feel that I cannot even wake up… I feel like a passenger in my own life. I feel incapable.

I have felt incapable before, but it was temporary and fleeting. Their experiences with depression are everlasting at times, where they cannot shake the feeling of uselessness and invisibility.

From your perspective, how do people see you when you are depressed?

People likely see me as demotivated and ineffectual. They might even call me lazy. But they don’t know the underlying story.

It is very hard to see who is experiencing depression, since most cover their emotions with a smile on their face and a pseudo-positive attitude in most situations. I could never imagine how hard it would be to hide the fact that you feel so lonely and sad this much.

What do you think about when you are depressed?

I think about my future. I feel a tremendous weight that restricts my movement. I wonder if I deserve feeling this way, or if it gets any better.

I think about my future all of the time as a college student, but imagine forcing yourself to think negatively of the future and what it holds. This fact in itself is extremely scary.

What/who helps you when you are depressed?

My partner normally helps put things into perspective. They are so kind and caring… they remind me of all the good in the world, and they help me believe in myself.

Any close friend, relative, partner, or family member are great resources in either finding help and talking through what one is feeling, even if it is unexplainable.

What feelings heighten your depressed mood?

Stress is my undoing. Feeling stressed makes me lose control, and feel unhinged. It just snowballs from there.

One aspect of this person’s answers that surprised me was their constant feelings of detachment. Their strong identification with feeling as if they were not actually here struck me as not only very sad, but mind-numbing as well. To be alone is one of the worst feelings in the world; depression, from their answers, is to perpetually feel alone, no matter what is actually occurring in your life. Two things that did not surprise me were the following: the effects of stress, and how it can heighten feelings of sadness and depression, and how powerful the presence of a partner, or someone close to a person with depression, can be.

Through my friend’s experiences and shared knowledge, depression, to me, means more than sadness; it encompasses the burning feeling of being alone in a time where almost nothing can reach you.

-Francesca Cocchiarale

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