Being depressed does not mean that you’re sad
Often times when people say that “they are depressed”, they are actually trying to say that they are sad. Sadness is an emotional state, while depression is a mental state, and the two don’t always exist at the same time.
Like most people, I have been sad in my life. Sadness is usually caused by something, such as an event that happens. It could be something that someone says to you that hurts your feelings. Maybe your girlfriend broke up with you, or your cat died. It’s often easy to say what caused the sadness. “I am sad because of [reason]”.
Depression on the other hand, can be much more tricky to figure out. It’s not as easy to say “I am depressed because of this thing that happened to me”. Depression is not an emotion, so it’s not caused by how we feel, or what’s going on around us. Depression is a mental illness, and it’s definitely not the same thing as just being “sad”.
Unless you have lived with depression, making a clear distinction between sadness and depression might seem silly. To those of us who do live with depression, it can make all the difference in the world.
I can wake up depressed without being sad. It will be hard to get up out of bed, hard to want to function and go about my day, and hard to enjoy the things happening around me. But, I’m not sad. Lately, my life has been pretty good in a lot of ways, and I feel rather happy most of the time. Happiness doesn’t cancel out depression though. It’s not unusual for me to have a smile on my face or to be laughing while feeling depressed.
For me, understanding the difference was key to my self awareness and capacity to enjoy life. At first, when I felt depressed I tried to understand why I was sad, and I couldn’t figure out what was making me sad. I would try and find reasons that could fit, and sometimes I would even make myself believe that something that I didn’t think had bothered my, was in fact making me sad.
This was a complicated way of looking at my life, and it made it hard to understand my own mental state and emotions.
Now that I realize what depression actually is, and I can admit that I have to live with it, I’ve been able to start learning how to cope with it. I don’t need to try and make myself happy, or try and shut out the feeling, I can just try to learn how to get on with my life and enjoy every moment as much as I can.
If you are interested in learning more about what it’s like to be depressed, and/or you like video games, then check out Depression Quest. It’s a choose your own adventure game that you can play right in your browser.