Jan. 26 2022 08:00 AM

If you’ve never been depressed yourself, how can you be expected to help someone you love through their struggles?

The way I share about mental health has shifted lately, and I don’t think I truly realized how until I started typing this article. For the last two years, I’ve been sharing about my experience with depression as if it has happened to me, like it’s in the past. For the last few months, though, I’ve been sharing it in real time. As it’s happening. How it feels right now. Maybe that doesn’t feel like a big deal to you, but it does to me. It’s one thing to talk about a problem like it’s behind you — like you’ve conquered it. But to openly admit you’re in the middle of something that you’re struggling to solve feels embarrassing. Still, I also think it’s worth it, because if you’ve never been depressed, what do you say when someone you love admits that they are? It’s impossible to understand how they feel if you’ve never felt it. How can you help them if you don’t understand them?

Being depressed isn’t about being sad 24/7. For a lot of people, most of the time, it feels like numbness. It’s like you feel all the feelings, but they’re muted. It’s like even when you’re happy and laughing, there’s a dark tint to the world. Not everyone who’s depressed sits around thinking suicidal thoughts all day. Honestly, I spend a lot of time trying not to think about anything because everything feels like too much. Life feels exhausting. Every second of it. Responding to emails, texts, or messages on social media feels like pressure, and pressure feels suffocating.

I also spend a lot of time feeling guilty and worthless and that being productive is just beyond me. Depression is exhausting. When you hear someone say that it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, it’s not necessarily because they didn’t get enough sleep. For me, it’s because in that moment, right after I wake up and I’m lying in bed, everything feels safe. There’s no pressure. I haven’t let anyone down yet. There are no expectations, no stress until the moment my feet hit the ground.

The hardest thing for others to understand about depression, I think, is why we can’t just get over it — just choose to be happy. Believe me, if it were that easy, I’d choose it. And I try to choose it every single day, but it’s more complicated than that. My mind has programmed itself to sabotage my every thought. I am not worth happiness. I am not worth your worry or your love. I’m starting to believe that depression becomes chronic because I’m more worried about it getting worse than I am about trying to make it better. A friend stated it beautifully when I shared this thought: living in the heartache feels less daunting than the idea of healing.

I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. I don’t even need people to comment on my posts or send me encouraging messages. I want you to understand why it’s hard. The more you understand what someone is feeling, the more understanding you can be.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.