Depressed ISN'T Sad

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1 Oct 2018 (updated 31 Aug 19 )

One of the problems with being bipolar is it’s hard to describe what depression or mania or mood swings are.

We commonly get annoyed when friends misunderstand us. But it is hard to describe to YOURSELF what the hell is going on even as the depression is happening to you. Think about that. You can’t properly describe what depression is to your own self!

Here’s the BIG Problem

If you can’t come up with a correct description of what Depression is and what it is doing to you, then you can’t come up with a correct plan for dealing with it.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The biggest problem is that the word depressed has two meanings.

If you check a dictionary, ‘depressed’ means ‘in the state of unhappiness or despondency or in low spirits from loss of hope or courage’. Yes, I looked it up.

But then there’s the term ‘Depressed’ that is used to describe the medical condition Depression (note the capital D). And depressed and Depressed aren’t the same thing at all.

When us bipolar persons say “I am Depressed”, what we mean is “I am exhibiting all the symptoms of the medical condition Depression”.

We don’t mean sad. We mean a whole lot more than sad. In fact here are 18 Depression symptoms that I know of. Most of these symptoms are NOT simple or easy to deal with.

The Language Causes Problems


If a friend asks me how I’m feeling, and I say “I am Depressed”, and my friend hears “I am feeling unhappy or sad” then there’s an immediate problem.

There’s a huge disconnect – my friend and I aren’t talking about the same thing at all.

That’s why us depressed or bipolar persons frequently get annoyed with the suggestions from well meaning friends. We understand that you are trying to be supportive and helpful, but….you aren’t helping at all.

This is not meant to be a criticism of all of our partners, siblings, friends, co-workers. It has taken me twenty years of actively trying to understand what Depression actually is - much less to start looking for the set of mechanisms that I will collectively need to manage my Depression. Assuming that my friends and family magically know how to support me is just silly.

By the way, because of the nature of Depression, trying to cheer us up doesn’t work, irritates us, and makes us want to escape from you. Just saying. In fact, efforts to cheer us up actively makes things worse because in addition to all of our real Depression problems, we now have to also worry that we are somehow failing you by not responding the way you would like us to.

The medical term Depression is best described as

‘Really really Frustrated that I Can’t Get Things Done - and all the feelings of worthlessness and shame and helplessness that go with that.’

and NOT the description ‘Sad’.


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Old Wordpress Comments

Jan 9, 2019 : Nouseled : theblueflowersblog.wordpress.comGreat article! My own experience of Depression is slightly different than yours. My own major Depression symptom is more like, a new brain setting in which everything bad is even worse. So an indifferent or even good situation is either disappointing or bad, a not-ideal situation is TERRIBLE, a bad situation is DOOM.
My brain immediately attunes to all the bad things in myself (low self-esteem) and not the good ones, all the bad behaviors of others and not their good behaviors, and all the bad things that could happen to me instead of all the good ones. A particular struggle I face from this personal experience of Depression is that I sometimes can’t tell when I’m depressed and can’t talk myself out of my depressive thought spirals because all of these thought patterns seem perfectly logical and reasonable (although later I can look back and go, “Wow, that was… off.”).

Dec 11, 2018 : DyutiM : magicalstreet.wordpress.comLoved the way you write about it all. Thank you. Just knowing somebody out there gets exactly what you’re going through helps a lot sometimes.

Jan 30, 2018 : bravingmentalillnessYou’re welcome and thank you for the great posts and kind words!

Jan 30, 2018 : jinnahThanks for complimenting my blog. Glad you’re stable.Will be reading up on your blog later today too.

Jan 30, 2018 : bravingmentalillnesst’s nice meeting you here. I’m just now finding your blog and I’m enjoying your post. Being a suicide survivor and diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses, I too have learned many coping tools to work through my challenges. This post offers great information for those who need a deeper understanding how to help others or evaluate themselves. It took me over 20 years to find my stability and I never thought I’d accomplish so much. Thank you for an inspirational blog! – Heidi

Jan 26, 2018 : jinnahLuke – I thought about what you wrote – What tools in culture do you use? Could you explain? Would love to hear more. If here is not where you want to talk – email me at .

Jan 26, 2018 : Kellie BrownYour descriptions are SO helpful. The information allows me to understand how I might better help my friend, and my daughter. When you described how the lack of focus impacts everything else – it will change how I interact with both of them!

Jan 26, 2018 : jinnahLuke, Thank ya!

Jan 26, 2018 : Luke MasonYou remain the very best writer at capturing the essence of depression. I’m forever trying to understand myself, and to help others understand me. My tools are either culture, which embraces the abstract, or it’s your prose, which seizes the practical, the mundane, and shows the rust and bone. And for that I’m always grateful. This and the “Symptoms” entry are unparalleled.

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