Depression Expectations vs Reality

What expectations for depression do you have?

A person who is so sad, they can’t get out of bed? Someone who can’t hold down a job? Who cries all the time?

Do you imagine someone sitting home alone, without any social interaction, just staring out of the window in silence?

That might be the reality for some people. In fact, it has sometimes been the reality for me. That shouldn’t be ignored. But I wanted to clear up some misconceptions, since depression is so different for everyone. I wanted to show that while these things may be true for some people, you can live a very normal live, even while depressed.

This post will show you that you can move past the labels society puts on you in regards to your mental health.

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What is depression?

According to Mayo Clinic, depression is:

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

Some common symptoms of depression are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep issues
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest in things you enjoy
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Isolating yourself

Expectations of depression

People read things like that and, without proper education, they think of one thing: weakness. “Why do people act that way? Why do they let a disease control them? And why can’t they be different? I don’t understand why they can’t just be happy.”

Ugh. I have heard those things way too many times. It’s infuriating, isn’t it? All you want to do is feel seen and heard, and people just can’t seem to get past the fact that you’re “sick.”

You want to be treated like a human being who has something to offer, but people have this mental block. They stop at the word depression, and can’t go any further.

When people see the word “depression” they picture:

  • a man so stressed at his job that he comes home and drinks until he passes out the couch
  • a woman who is a bad mother because she lies on the couch all day
  • someone who eats more than they should because they can’t stop
  • someone who doesn’t eat enough because every bite makes them depressed

While these things may be true for some people, this is not the reality for all people who live with depression. And even if it is the case for someone, these symptoms do not define them.

The reality of depression

People who live with depression are not defined by their symptoms. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010. It was scary at first, but the more I read about it, and the more I connected with the mental health community, the more I realized that I would be okay.

When I refer to my illness, I never say, “I am bipolar.” I truly believe that part of the problem the mental health community faces is that we become our labels. When I was diagnosed, I was determined to not become my diagnosis. Instead, I choose to say, “I have bipolar disorder,” or “I live with bipolar disorder.” I don’t judge those that choose the “I am” language. But it is a preference that I believe can be beneficial for a person’s mindset.

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So, what is the reality of depression?

  • A woman who tries her best to get through the day with her kids
  • An executive who is strong enough to fight the impulse to drink after a stressful day
  • A man who takes a deep breath before walking in the door to his family after a long day at work
  • A person who goes for a jog to combat the blues
  • Someone who makes a salad instead of stopping for french fries.

That being said, I want to make something clear. The situations I outlined further up as “expectations” are certainly the reality for many people. And they should not be judged for their behavior. They have an illness that chages their brain chemistry to the point where they sometimes feel as if they cannot live any differently.

depression expectations

However, they are not the poster children for depression. Yes, there are many expectations for what depression is. But, depression is so varied that we cannot look at these people as prime examples. Depression is everybody. It is the person behind you at the grocery store. It is the person who delivers your mail. Depression is the person who smiles at you as you walk past them. Depression is not a stereotype. It is everybody.

Share your journey with depression in the comments! I would love to hear from you. And make sure you share this post. You never know who might need to hear this message.

What expectations of depression did/do you carry with you?

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16 thoughts on “Depression Expectations vs Reality”

  1. Hi Jen. That’s very enlightening, thank you. I know somebody whose mother lived with depression. I must confess that, in the past, I didn’t really understand what it was. In my naivety, I’d say “What is she depressed about?”. “It’s not as simple as that.” they would tell me. Well done you for having the strength to write about it 🙂

    1. Hey Richie, thanks for sharing that. I’m sure everyone has thought things like that on occasion. It takes actually living through it to truly understand. Thanks for reading, and the kind words!

  2. I think that’s a super helpful distinction to make about how one frames their relationship to a diagnosis–“I am bipolar” versus “I live with bipolar disorder.” It realigns perspective and sounds much more hopeful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences 🙂

    1. Hey Alison, it definitely affects, at least how I imagine people view me. Not that it should matter how others view you, but it’s good to protect yourself in whatever way you can. Thanks for reading!

  3. Kristine Nicole Alessandra

    I have depression and some of my family members think that that equates to me being crazy. I want to explain it to them, but I just let them go ahead and think whatever they want to think of me. All I know is that I try to survive everyday as normally as possible, even if deep inside I have needs that I feel will never ever be met. Ever. Thank God for medications.

  4. I appreciate your articles on this subject. I don’t knows much about this disorder except possibly the misconceptions. I have actually learned so much over the past few weeks just by reading your blog. Thank you for what and being transparent.

  5. Very good info. I was listing to Cara Harvey (A Purpose Driven Mom) podcast the other day on anxiety. She was pointing out how often folks say “I’m depressed” casually and that it detracts from those of us who are clinically diagnosed with depression. I think it is good to spread awareness. I held off getting help for a long time and wish there wasn’t so much stigma preventing people getting help they need and deserve.

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