One of the most difficult things to explain to someone about depression is that, at times, you actually want to feel that way. That, despite the overwhelming sadness, numbness and despair, there’s no other way you’d rather feel.
People often ask, don’t you want to be happy? Get some exercise, you’ll feel better, they say. Try smiling a little more.
The very nature of depression is that it changes your very outlook, your mindset, and your behaviors. The things that once gave you joy are no longer interesting, and you lack the energy to do the simplest of things—even brushing your teeth becomes an insurmountable effort. And it’s so difficult for people to understand why on earth you’d ever want to be like that.
I think for me at least, the answer lies in mental effort and energy. It takes energy to do things—it takes energy to breathe, to eat, even to sleep. And when you’re depressed, sometimes that’s all the energy you have. Perhaps it’s to do with being an introvert; while extroverts certainly can suffer from depression, I feel that those most prone to it are most likely to be introverted. While an extrovert draws energy from those around them, an introvert finds social interactions (for the most part) draining, both physically and mentally. We recharge on our own.
And depression is a low-energy state. Since I already find it difficult to muster the energy for normal, day-to-day activities, it logically follows that I would tend toward things that take less energy—I only have so much to give.
In that regard, the comfort of depression is in the very fact that it requires very little energy to be depressed. It means I don’t have to get out of bed, I don’t have to do the dishes, I don’t have to face the day and talk to people. I know this might sound selfish to some, but depression is like that: you don’t care about other people, and you stop caring about yourself.
So when I say I want to be depressed, it doesn’t necessarily mean I want to suffer the despair, misery and sadness that come with it; it’s just so much easier to withdraw, to sink into the black hole of depression and watch the world go by in safety, in numb comfort.
Doesn’t that sound enticing? Who wouldn’t want to have no responsibilities, no requirement for effort? This is the biggest twist of depression, and why it’s so hard to crawl out of it, medicated or not: the comfort of nothing is so powerful that it makes the emptiness, the despair and the sadness entirely bearable.
So next time someone tells you they want to be depressed, please don’t dismiss it as laziness, or crazy talk; it’s a difficult disease to treat, and recognizing the true struggles of those who suffer is paramount.
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