Depressed ISN'T Sad

Home > Depression
1 Oct 2018 (updated 31 Aug 19)

One of the problems with being bipolar is it’s hard to describe what depression or mania or mood swings are.

We commonly get annoyed when friends misunderstand us. But it is hard to describe to YOURSELF what the hell is going on even as the depression is happening to you. Think about that. You can’t properly describe what depression is to your own self!

Here’s the BIG Problem

If you can’t come up with a correct description of what Depression is and what it is doing to you, then you can’t come up with a correct plan for dealing with it.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The biggest problem is that the word depressed has two meanings.

If you check a dictionary, ‘depressed’ means ‘in the state of unhappiness or despondency or in low spirits from loss of hope or courage’. Yes, I looked it up.

But then there’s the term ‘Depressed’ that is used to describe the medical condition Depression (note the capital D). And depressed and Depressed aren’t the same thing at all.

When us bipolar persons say “I am Depressed”, what we mean is “I am exhibiting all the symptoms of the medical condition Depression”.

We don’t mean sad. We mean a whole lot more than sad. In fact here are 18 Depression symptoms that I know of. Most of these symptoms are NOT simple or easy to deal with.

The Language Causes Problems


If a friend asks me how I’m feeling, and I say “I am Depressed”, and my friend hears “I am feeling unhappy or sad” then there’s an immediate problem.

There’s a huge disconnect – my friend and I aren’t talking about the same thing at all.

That’s why us depressed or bipolar persons frequently get annoyed with the suggestions from well meaning friends. We understand that you are trying to be supportive and helpful, but….you aren’t helping at all.

This is not meant to be a criticism of all of our partners, siblings, friends, co-workers. It has taken me twenty years of actively trying to understand what Depression actually is - much less to start looking for the set of mechanisms that I will collectively need to manage my Depression. Assuming that my friends and family magically know how to support me is just silly.

By the way, because of the nature of Depression, trying to cheer us up doesn’t work, irritates us, and makes us want to escape from you. Just saying. In fact, efforts to cheer us up actively makes things worse because in addition to all of our real Depression problems, we now have to also worry that we are somehow failing you by not responding the way you would like us to.

The medical term Depression is best described as

‘Really really Frustrated that I Can’t Get Things Done - and all the feelings of worthlessness and shame and helplessness that go with that.’

and NOT the description ‘Sad’.

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First published 1 Oct 2018. Updated 31 Aug 2019.Old Wordpress Comments