My definition of clinical depression is:
You feel awful even when things are going right
If you are feeling awful when things are awful, then you are having a normal reaction to an unpleasant event. The way to fix this type of ‘feeling awful’ is to either fix the problem, or if that’s not possible then to come to terms with what happened to you.
This is not to say that external events can’t trigger clinical depression, they can. Some people will have an external event that they don’t recover from, this is because they have a predisposition to getting depression.
I have met people in day to day life who have said that they have depression, but on getting to know them it’s actually that they are feeling down about things that anyone would feel down about. Once the problems are fixed their feelings of despair go. In this case they did not have clinical depression.
The reason I am bringing this up, is that people who think they have depression but don’t, and who recover by fixing external events, will assume that everyone else with depression can be fixed by doing that too. Their attitude will often be unsympathetic and harmful to a real sufferer.
I spoke to someone at a depression conference recently and they said that they had fixed everything in their life that was troubling them. They also improved their diet, exercised three times a week, and did all the things you are supposed to do to overcome depression. Here’s the thing, their depression didn’t go away. This is because they have an illness.
The best metaphor I can come up with is, imagine you are walking barefoot on broken glass, the pain you are experiencing would not be considered an illness. You just need to stop walking on broken glass. If you experience pain in your feet because of a neurological-based pain disorder then that can be considered an illness.
If the person walking on glass, stops walking on glass, and their feet heal, they might go round telling everyone with foot pain just to be careful not to walk barefoot on glass. When this isn’t the other person’s problem.
This article is not supposed to negate anyone’s suffering. If bad things are happening to you and you feel awful then that is terrible. However it isn’t necessarily depression. You will know if you suffer from depression, when your mood stays low for a very long time after the problems end.
Copyright MEN HEAL 2014