To the Woman Who is Depressed for “No Reason”
Hi. I hope today is turning out to be an okay day for you. I’m sure in some ways it is and in others it’s a familiar struggle. I want a few minutes of your time. Just the two of us. So, close the office door; take your device to the bathroom; or spend a few extra minutes in the car before going home, and read this in a quiet place, okay?
You see, I met you today. Quite unexpectedly actually. As a woman myself with a…(how should I say this?)… let’s say a colorful past; I have dozens of reasons I could point to for my struggles with depression (if I wanted to). So meeting you was a really powerful and eye-opening experience.
Without prompting you made small talk and shared the random details of your life: a sibling, a dog, state health insurance, a prescription for antidepressants that don’t work, a desire to someday be a mother, a quick apology for the state of your room. You vibrate with a unique and yet familiar combination of potential and dreams and uncertainty and fear and a sense in yourself that you lack purpose; all neatly compartmentalized under the facade of a well made-up face.
You were beautiful and well spoken and you reminded me of a stubborn flame that refused to be tamped out. You see I saw you in there, behind the nervous introduction, darting eyes, quick smiles and fast pace. I saw you. Not just the pretty outside but I caught glimpses of your carefully guarded soul and it was spectacular. And I know you’re not used to hearing that and maybe have no idea what that even means and that’s okay. Basically, it means I know you’ve got purpose – I know because I saw it in your eyes and the energy around you when you first opened the door.
And so we talked. I say less in hopes that you will say more; and you do, not so much in quantity but in quality. You are so wonderful and you don’t see it. And then it falls out of your mouth, a powerful non-chalant statement. It lies there between us on the cold November pavement. Me, literally able to see it there in front of you at your feet and you not realizing the value nor the weight in the gem of insight that has just come from your own mouth.
“I don’t know why,” you said. “I had a great childhood and my parents are really good to me. On paper I have no reason for this. There is no reason for me to be depressed.”
I pause to see if you hear it yourself but when you don’t I half chicken out and half intentionally don’t address it. I think I also needed to process the value in what you have said.
We talk a bit more and I leave and drive the 2 hours home and think of that moment over and over in my head at the end of your driveway: the cold November wind, the sound of brittle leaves, the sparkling sunlight, the half smile on your face as you look at the pavement and glance up at me not quite able to make eye contact and you guiltily tell me you have no reason to be depressed.
And here is what I wish I had said to you at that very moment:
“You do not need a reason to be depressed.
You do not need a reason to be depressed.
You do not need one single reason at all on this earth to be depressed.”
Depression is the only chronic illness I can think of where, when a person is experiencing it, we automatically think it’s only real if they have suffered a trauma. Not cancer, nor MS, nor diabetes, nor heart disease, nor autoimmune disease is met with the flippant response:, “eh, she has no reason to be that way.” Only depression is. And this must stop.
Depression is not about comparison. It’s not about wishing or wanting for things you don’t have. It’s not an immature reaction to not having things turn out as you anticipated. When someone says “that person is depressed for no reason” it’s as if money, or children, or a spouse, or a career, or a good body, or a pretty face, or an education is the immunization against this disease. Those things are not. And ironically, this is the exact behavior that causes the depressed person to feel guilty and shameful about their depression when “on paper” they have it so good, and there is no good reason, they avoid seeking treatment and support.
Comments like, “If I had all her money I wouldn’t be depressed,” or “Cheer up, I’d trade places with you any day,” or “She has such a nice husband and those cute kids, what is she depressed about?” or “She doesn’t know what it’s like to have it bad,” are frequently said about those who are battling depression. But think about it: Would anyone ever say that to a person with another disease?
If I had all her money I wouldn’t get cancer…
I met a woman today who is just like you. And I was happy to have met her. She’s an interesting person who hasn’t yet had the chance to really meet herself. When she does, I think she’ll love who she finds. I suggested she bundle up and take a walk even if it’s freezing. Moving is good for depression.
I didn’t tell her “things will turn around” or “hang in there, eventually you’ll find your way” or “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Instead I told her the truth: “I’ll see you later.” Because I liked who I met, and I’m sure she hasn’t yet found herself fully, but I am so excited to meet “her” later. I am sure she’s not quite found the best way to manage her illness yet but so what, that doesn’t discount her as a person, or a friend, or woman any more than any other illness does.
I left this woman today and have been thinking about her for hours. She is a woman that represents millions of other women that have such a bright future AND who also have depression. The two things can coexist. There doesn’t need to be a reason for depression. Presuming to know the reason for ones depression doesn’t magically undo it anyway; and having trauma in your life doesn’t mean you must become depressed. Depression is a not a reflex.
I asked you to read this alone because if you’re a woman who is depressed “for no reason” I want you look around and know that even when you’re truly alone, there is always someone just a few clicks away who understands what you are going through, who won’t judge you, and who would be happy to know you as you are today and tomorrow too.