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  • Dan Zerin

I'm so happy, I'm depressed

What is Depression if you aren't actually sad?

There’s a side of Depression that no one seems to talk about. We have all heard someone say at some point that Depression and sadness are not the same thing. But, we never really hear why they aren’t the same. Well, we do. But, Depression is so misunderstood that how people are feeling isn’t always clear. I like to describe Depression the way Panic Disorder was explained to me. Panic Disorder is essentially your internal alarm system being faulty and going off at the wrong times. That’s why people who have really bad Panic Disorder panic about things that don’t make sense to panic about. They aren’t actually necessarily feeling real panic about these situations. But, their body and mind are telling them to panic. The way Depression is for me is very similar to that. It’s my internal sadness being alerted. But, the timing is wrong. That’s why I’m typically happy when I’m depressed.


Let’s put it this way. What happens when you are sad? You get that feeling in your stomach. Your face starts to feel numb. You get thoughts that you normally don’t get. Maybe, you even cry. Now, imagine you are having a really great day. Nothing specific happened. You just feel really great and happy. Then, out of nowhere, you get all these symptoms of sadness that I just listed. What are you sad about? You aren’t. You are having a great day. You are happy. So, why does your body think you are supposed to be sad? That’s what Depression does to me. That’s why I’m depressed when I’m happy and that’s why Depression isn’t sadness. You get the symptoms of sadness. But, the actual sadness isn’t there.

Now, comes the tricky part. Regardless of how your day is going, when your body and brain are telling you that you are supposed to be sad, snapping out of it isn’t easy. Even if you know that you aren’t actually sad, it can be very difficult to not give in because the feeling is very often overwhelming. Think about panic attacks. Whether a panic attack was caused by anything or was simply faulty wiring in your alarm system, it’s hard not to let it completely take over because that feeling is incredibly intense.


When I’m depressed, my brain actually tries to convince me that I believe things that I don’t. For example, I have a list of friends who I know can help me when I’m having trouble. But, when the Depression kicks in, my brain changes that to “none of them care”. Even though I know they do, my brain convinces me that they don’t. This is part of why it can be incredibly difficult for people with Depression to speak to people about it. The best time to speak up is when you are depressed because you can explain everything while it is happening in the moment, but that’s when your brain doesn’t want you to.


I hope this gives you more of an understanding about what Depression is and that your understanding will help people who need that help.



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