“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
One of the harder things about living with depression can be the assumptions that other people–even people who love you–make about the illness.
Today I wanted to give you a heads up about a really good ebook that my friend Steve Woodruff just published on the subject of recovering from depression, and also post a quick list of 6 things that depression doesn’t mean.
1. That you won’t be a productive employee. I’ve lived with depression for my entire career. Take a look at all my LinkedIn recommendations and you’ll notice a common theme: “gets things done, strong producer, amazing work output…” Depression does mean that staying productive can be more difficult. But being active and productive is really therapeutic and helpful. If you wouldn’t discriminate against a person with asthma or diabetes (people who also can miss work when their illness acts up), then don’t do it to someone who is brave enough to admit they’re managing depression.
2. That you just need to cheer up or get over it. It’s a brain chemistry problem. Not a poor attitude.
3. If you really had faith, you wouldn’t have depression. This one really makes me angry, and it’s an incredibly common attitude in the church. I’m not saying that prayer, service and many aspects of a life of faith can’t help. These things can be tremendously powerful (serving others, in particular, is underutilized). I’m saying depression isn’t a character flaw–it’s a disease.
4. That your parents sucked. My parents were awesome. Seriously–I know I complain a lot about certain specific elements of my childhood, but my depression isn’t a result of the parenting I received. It’s possibly a result of the genes I received, but I can hardly fault Mom and Dad for those. They also gave me awesome eye color and artistic talent. 🙂
5. That you will suck as a parent. My kids love me. I love them. When I don’t manage it, can my depression rob me of the energy I need to keep up with their schedules? Yah. But that’s just another motivation to manage it. (Are you sensing a theme in my overall message to others who have depression?)
6. You’ll be dependent on drugs your whole life. Okay. I know I’m skating on thin ice here because I’m not a doctor and this is a very hot button topic. Don’t even play on on TV (or YouTube, even.) I’m not saying that medication isn’t a literal life-saver for many people. I’m not making any value judgments about anyone’s choice to medicate or not. Whatever keeps you healthy–I’m all for it. I’m saying that depression is a disease with a spectrum of health, much like diabetes, and much like diabetes, many people can manage it effectively without medication. I’m saying that medication isn’t a foregone conclusion, and definitely isn’t the sum total of a treatment plan.
If you’ve suffered from depression, what is the most common misconception you’ve had to deal with? If you haven’t, what’s something you always assumed that you’ve discovered is wrong?