I Wish I Understood Depression


By Ashley Nowak

I do not understand what it is like to be depressed. And with 16.2 million adults in the United States living with a form of depression (according to the National Institute of Mental Health), I wish more people, including myself, understood it better. 


I cannot fully grasp depression but don’t get me wrong, I have a slew of other “issues.” Quotes intended. I continually fight unnerving anxiety, I suffered from body dysmorphia for several years, and I live with grief I cannot shake. But, I am not depressed. Depression is not just going through a tough time or being bummed out. Depression is a clinical disorder. It causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It can lead to social, emotional, and/or physical problems and it often disrupts daily life (according to Mayo Clinic). And while the definition of depression is clear enough, I still cannot say I understand it. I am not sure if anyone who is not or has not been depressed can fully comprehend the scope of its power. 


What I have come to find out is that depressed people experience and deal with their depression in a variety of ways. No two experiences are the same. For some, it may be living in a constant fog. It may be a loss of interest in activities or wanting to limit interactions with others. Some turn to a habit that allows them to escape their depression for a while, such as alcohol, drugs, or self-harm. For others in extreme situations, the depression is so overwhelming that the idea of living is unbearable. It seems some individuals find ways to cope, be it therapy and/or medication, while others lose their way. 


While I make it clear I do not understand how difficult it must be to live with depression, I do have a great empathy for those who live with this dark cloud. I wish I could fully understand it so I could better recognize the signs, be more relatable, and say the right things. Over time I have found that empathy is as close as I can get. Though I cannot understand depression, I am an ally. I can and I will be there to listen to anyone who is depressed. I will fight to unpack the stigma that remains attached to it. And I will continue to educate myself on the topic. 


To learn more about depression and see other statistics, go to: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml