They call it depression. As if it is just a little dip in your mood. A mild blahness that will pass uneventfully. But really that is such a ridiculously laughable name for it. It is a demon, a darkness, a horror so all encompassing that thousands of people literally think death is preferable.
When I am suffering a particularly bad depression, I have no words to capture what I feel. I am likely to say I’m tired, or that it is a bad day, or some other equally laughably vague euphemism that in no way captures how I feel.
On September 11th, people literally chose to jump from the highest stories of a skyscraper rather than burn to death. I can’t imagine what they were feeling. I mean if the temperature gets above 75 degrees I start to melt, so the agony of burning jet fuel I can’t even imagine and I am sure no description could do it justice. And maybe it is not meant to.
Maybe these demons are meant to have no name. For to name them, it feels like to me, would be to release their horror onto the world, a plague, a burden that would only add to the sense of burden I already feel when I am in the midst of one of these depressions.
A desert native has no word for snow. They could describe the individual sensations, such as cold, wet, white, etc. But none of those adjectives truly captures the magic of a world that is so fresh and so clean after a fresh snowfall, the beautiful quiet that settles over the world, as if everything has stopped to appreciate this clean, white landscape. Or maybe that is just me, because the corollary to melting when the temperature is above 75 is an elation when the temperature is low and the world is dressed in white.
And similar to the desert native describing the individual attributes of snow, I could describe the individual attributes of my depression. I could describe the tiredness I feel, no matter how much I tried to sleep. I could describe the apathy I feel about everything around me because my body is literally so consumed with the pain within. I could describe the foreign feeling I get when I hide my depression with a smile, the way you might feel when you put on a mask. I could describe my inability to concentrate because my brain is so broken in that moment.
But none of that captures the horror of a demon that has no true name.
If you feel bad because your favorite sports team lost, or because someone you know died, or because your boyfriend or girlfriend dumped you, you can say so because those are all experiences universal enough that people can relate to you, to the feelings you’re having. But how do you describe the horror of feeling bad, feeling so low as to consider hurting yourself, killing yourself, for no reason at all? What wordsmith has come up with the correct combination of words for that misery?
And perhaps that is part of what feeds into the stigma. Perhaps those of us who do suffer, can never quite find the words to share and so people think we are just being lazy, that we’re just taking time because we’re tired or whatever, when the reality is so much more horrible.
To those people I am sorry I can’t be more honest with you. And to those who suffer I am sorry that perhaps my failing to come up with a better description only feeds into the stigma, the tendency to downplay depression based on the laughably inept nature of the name it is given.
Maybe someday this demon will be named more aptly. And maybe by naming it we can in fact claim power over it. Maybe by naming it we can end that stigma, end the pain and suffering it causes, end it all. Maybe. Or maybe the demon will forever have no name. In the meantime all any mental health advocate can do is continue to talk as openly as we’re able, hopefully chipping away at the nameless demon that we call depression, in the hopes that one day we might be rid of it. At least that is what I am going to do.