By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.

~ Robert Louis Stevenson ~

Depression or Dejection: Which One?

March 2nd, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 32 secs

Depression, or just another bad hair day?

This is tricky. “Depression” often describes anything from feeling down to being medically unwell. So when people reach for the depression word to describe a range of things, it’s difficult to know what they’re talking about.

Like love, such terms have a kind of catchall quality. Yet it helps if we tease out the meanings to prevent labeling typical feelings too severely.

Depression at the discovery we’ve received a parking ticket, for instance, is probably just dejection. Lumping bad day feelings with forms of diagnosable incapacity is completely confusing.  Worse, it can make people who really are unwell feel trivialized.

Giving well-meaning advice like, “Come on. You’ve been depressed for weeks now. Time to snap out of it and cheer up” to someone with medically diagnosed  depression is like saying, “Come on. You’ve broken your arm in three places. But that happened weeks ago. Time to snap out of it and hit the trampoline.”

Unlike the blues that come and go with our fluctuating moods, depression can’t be willed away.  There’s no point telling someone to take a concrete pill and toughen up. Severe depression is a disease that needs treatment, not a firm talking to.

How can you know the difference? Well, like they say in the ads, if in doubt see your doctor and discuss it. Feeling stuck in a low mood that refuses to shake isn’t necessarily a medical problem. Until they get over their rejection, jilted lovers feel that way every day. Whereas, seemingly happy people can feel they’re drowning in a silent sea of despair for no apparent reason. For these reasons good medical help makes sense. Not only can it clarify what’s happening. But it can also make a tremendous difference if it is a medical condition.

So, one way or the other, don’t dismiss how you’re feeling but find out the facts. Although nobody wants down days, depression and dejection are part of real life. Not only should we be open about them, but with the insight of qualified advice we can make sense of our experience. Better yet, we can also do something practical about how we’re really feeling.


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