She is depressed. He has depression. They are suffering from clinical depression.
What do all of these phrases have in common?
They put the depression on the person. They say that the essence of a person is their depression. That every single iota of their being is tainted by a mental illness. That all they are and all they know is sadness.
In reality, depression is an illness, a disease. It is only a small part of somebody’s wholeness. Depression does not define them and does not make them weak, much like having cancer does not make somebody made of cancer or spiritually weakened by cancer. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Living with a mental illness and choosing to continue to live every single day in the face of that mental illness makes a person powerful beyond measure. And if that person is willing to open up about their depression? That reflects an incalculable amount of strength, considering the world around them is full of people pretending to have a life that is 100% perfect (just scroll through Instagram once and a while and you’ll see what I’m talking about).
So let’s change the way we talk about depression to reflect the sheer amount of strength it takes to live with a mental health disorder. Instead of saying you are depressed, say:
You are a depression survivor.
You are not depression itself. Depression does not own you or your soul. Instead, you own depression, to the point that you continue to live a life that, often times, feels excruciatingly painful.
What makes you a survivor? The choice you make every single day to continue living, to continue trying, even if you do not feel like doing so.
In 2016, according to the CDC, 45,000 people tragically died by suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. As one would suspect, a majority of people who complete suicide have been touched by depression in some way (60%, to be exact, according to the US HHS). The fact that you 1) have a disorder that makes you 25 TIMES MORE LIKELY to complete a suicide (American Association of Suicidology) and 2) choose to continue living in spite of that risk, makes you badass beyond words.
That makes you strong. That makes you powerful. And that, my friend, makes you a depression survivor.