Depression is NOT Lack of Gratitude
In my experience, anytime people hear of someone who throws the word “depressed” around with the next breath you are automatically bombarded with the word “gratitude.” And the more you’ve seemingly accomplished in life, it seems, the more you’re a total moron for living with a serious and underestimated illness such as clinical depression.
People want to “fix” the situation and you. They want to provide solutions and the easiest, most organic way to go is to remind the person that all they need is a little something called gratitude. I don’t think they mean to come across as patronizing when they ask you to write a list of everything you are grateful for. And believe me, reminding ourselves daily of everything we do have is never a bad thing. You can never have enough gratitude in your life.
Think about it. Even love, if you give too much and it is not reciprocated, can be detrimental. If you love yourself too much, you focus solely on yourself absent of the world around you. This is called selfishness and self-love, and too much of either is bad for you. Too much of anything, after all, can be a bad thing.
But, when it comes to gratitude. There can never be enough of it. I am in no way undermining the real benefit of being grateful for all that we have in our lives. However, depression doesn’t magically disappear by making a list and “counting our blessings.”
One of my favorite actor/comedians, Rob Delaney, said it best in a tumblr post on February 26, 2010:
“I deal with suicidal, unipolar depression and I take medication daily to treat it. Over the past seven years, I’ve had two episodes that were severe and during which I thought almost exclusively of suicide. I did not eat much and lost weight during these episodes. I couldn’t sleep at all, didn’t even think about sex, and had constant diarrhea. The first thing I did each morning was vomit. My mind played one thought over and over, which was “Kill yourself.” It was also accompanied by a constant, thrumming pain that I felt through my whole body. I describe the physical symptoms because it helps to understand that real depression isn’t just a “mood.” These two episodes were the most difficult experiences of my life, by a wide margin, and I did not know if I would make it through them. To illustrate how horrible it was, being in jail in a wheelchair with four broken limbs after the car accident that prompted me to get sober eight years ago was much, much easier and less painful. That isn’t an exaggeration and I hope it helps people understand clinical depression better; I’m saying that I would rather be in jail in a wheelchair with a body that doesn’t work than experience a severe episode of depression.”
For those of us who have been diagnosed with clinical depression, understand that we can be grateful for a million things in our lives. But, depression is something that can be all consuming. It attacks your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy. And while it might not take much for the ordinary individual without depression to deal with life’s everyday challenges, it might take every ounce of our energy for those of us who struggle with it on a daily basis.
I have written quite a bit here about trying to stay positive and yes, finding gratitude in all that we do have. But, don’t be mistaken; clinical depression is not something to undermine. And some people might even try to one-up you by saying, for example, “Oh that’s nothing, I went through the same thing and I did it alone and had no one.” I’ve encountered people with seemingly worse wounds and stories only to end up essentially making me feel like I’m an idiot for having my experiences in comparison.
It’s really easy for some people to one-up your experience and struggles. It’s really easy to throw out suggestions such as gratitude lists and homeopathic remedies and positive thinking techniques. Believe me I’ve read the books. I am open to all of that mind-over-matter-stuff. However, I think the real issue is that mental health should not be a stigma and something to be ashamed about.
In his post, Delaney admits that he takes medication for depression and he takes it daily. He equally ends his post with a call to action asking all those that need help, to get it. For those that deal with clinical depression the way I do, don’t let other people talk down to you and treat you like what you experience is all in your head. For some people the “cure” is to simply do a gratitude list and poof, they’re cured. But in most cases, clinical depression doesn’t work like that. It takes exercise, friendships, gratitude, therapy, medication if need be, self-help books and positive thinking techniques. It takes a bunch of stuff and it takes all of that plus more and it takes working on it every single day.
The Bottom Line:
Regardless of your story, how much you might have or how much you have accomplished, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of how hard you had it in comparison to someone else, it doesn’t matter. Depression effects people with a ton of money and who are super accomplished as well as those who have nothing. There shouldn’t be any comparison. Look at Robin Williams. They said he had it all. But what people don’t understand is that it’s not about what you have or don’t have.
If you have depression, I’m not saying to not be grateful. Do be grateful. Do remind yourself every day of all that you have, the little and the big things. At the end of the day, get treatment and don’t let people undermine what you’re experiencing. Many people out there do not understand how painfully devastating and debilitating clinical depression can be. It’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy. There’s nothing to be ashamed about in getting help, and that does not mean you are hiding behind a diagnosis. It’s doing something about it. It’s ending the suffering and helping you. After all, who else will?
3 thoughts on “Depression is NOT Lack of Gratitude”
September 3, 2015 at 2:47 PM
Whenever I see myself or someone else getting one-upped, my first thought is that it’s not a contest. There’s no race to the bottom, and depression isn’t like running from a bear where someone can take one for the team and then brag about running the slowest to save everyone else.
While others may appreciate the sentiment (I know a few people who do), it’s a BIG pet peeve for me. As they say ’round my parts, it gets my goat and rides it around the room.
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September 3, 2015 at 4:36 PM
Dealing with depression is an ongoing battle. You’re right, it’s not a competition and like I said, it’s nothing I would wish on my worst enemy. I know, it’s hard though for many people who don’t have it to find empathy for those that are experiencing it. It’s not like we wish to have depression. It’s not like we wake up begging to feel gloomy or in the dumps. Sometimes people assume you can turn it off like a light switch. Easier said than done. 🙂
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June 16, 2017 at 8:44 AM
[…] quest to resolve the pain is the best solution: Gratitude. Let me be clear, suffering from depression is not lack of gratitude. I do not mean to say that people who have a mental illness need to just “snap out of it” and […]