When I was 7 years old, I had been doing gymnastics for a while, yet after a year of work, I had still not gone past level 2. I remember one day I was trying to do flips on the trampoline, I told my instructor, “I can’t do anything right!” She told me, “Lets come up with things you can do right; tell me things you like about yourself.” Finally I told her, “I can’t. I hate every single thing about myself and I wish I was dead.” I was 7. On my 9th birthday, I got the biggest piece and before I took the first bite, it fell on the floor. A switch in my mind went off and I completely shut down. I wouldn’t allow my mom to get me another piece. For the rest of the day I sat alone on the bench while kids continued to enjoy themselves. Little did my parents know that their little child who always saw the glass half empty was in store for a much bigger problem than kiddy tantrums and breakdowns. Depression is greater than a frequent sadness over an occurring event. It completely distorts a person’s way of thinking, magnifies their emotions, and deforms how they go about their day to day life.
Misunderstanding the difference between depression and severe sadness leads many people to misdiagnose themselves. It is important to understand the difference between the two in order to avoid degrading a serious mental illness into a normal human emotion. How many of you have ever heard people say something like, “I just got a D on my gov final, I’m so depressed”? Sounds ridiculous right? But the fact that people use mental illnesses to describe natural human emotions, like sadness and nervousness, is far more ridiculous than the actual content of those sentences.
Health Guide, who collaborated with the Harvard Health Department, describes depression as, “a common and debilitating mood disorder. More than just sadness in response to life’s struggles and setbacks, depression changes how you think, feel, and function in daily activities. It can interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life.” Many people often mistake this with sadness, but in fact, sadness is a rational human emotion that people feel in difficult situations. However, depression is an abnormal emotional state that can occur with absolutely no reason at all, and affects more than just the mood. Depression has a severe impact on your emotional, mental, and physical health. A way that depression alters your thinking is through a series of automatic negative thoughts. One of the common negative thoughts that is seen to be correlated with depression is called catastrophizing. Good Therapy describes catastrophizing as what happens, “when a person sees any unpleasant occurrence as the worst possible outcome.” For instance, me with this speech. I could be sitting here in front of my laptop for hours unable to start the speech. My first thought is “wow, I am an idiot, I’m never going to get my speech done so I might as well not even do it. I might as well just tell Mrs. Dalton right now that I’ll take the F for the semester and just drop the class altogether because no college is going to accept me anyway so what’s the point of trying?” That is, in fact, what I did end up doing, and as many of you know, I really did end up dropping my lit class last year in the 2nd semester because my spiraling head full of negativity truly convinced me the I couldn’t do it anymore.
Depression doesn’t only affect the way you think and feel, it also affects the way you physically function, or rather, not function. Depression makes the simplest things seem impossible to do. For example, getting out of bed or taking a shower. Depressed kids are often called lazy for not being able to take proper care of themselves, their hygiene, or their chores around the house. Since concentration is such a huge factor in our daily lives, it seems nearly impossible to complete simple school work, homework, or say, typing up a speech. It also makes it really hard to keep your interests and stay committed to things. Many people suffering from depression tend to give up on their hobbies after losing complete motivation for everything going on in their lives.
Although dealing with the symptoms of depression may sometimes seem unbearable, it is important to understand that even if your thoughts are not rational, they are still valid. It is also essential to understand that using the word “depression” so lightly can be very insulting and demeaning to those who have to deal with the constant pain and struggle everyday. That is why I challenge you to reconsider your choice of words next time you get a 6/10 on your science quiz.
-STAV REUVEN (AUGUST 13, 2018)