#TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs is an essential mental health hashtag.
Like most mental illness, depression is widely misunderstood by those who don't live with it.
I, like tens of millions of others, live with depression. To me, one of the most challenging aspects of depression is the simple fact that most people — even the most well-meaning — won't really understand. And try as they might, they won't be able to help.
One of my favorite illustrations of this comes from a comic by Robot Hugs. The comic imagines if people treated physical illness the way they often treat mental illness.
Too often, depression is seen as simply feeling sad. That isn't accurate.
Everyone gets sad. It's totally normal. Having a down day doesn't make you "depressed," just like cleaning your house doesn't make you "OCD" Taking these clinical terms and assigning them to situations that don't apply dilutes what they really mean.
It helps to make sure we're all using the same definition. So, without further ado, here's how the World Health Organization describes depression (emphasis mine):
"Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Suicide results in an estimated 1 million deaths every year."
Perhaps the best way to understand the "hidden burden" of depression is to listen to the stories of whose who have it.
People are using the hashtag #TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs to describe what it's like living with depression.
It's a powerful, diverse look at how varied — although tied together by a few common threads — these stories are.
To some, the worst part is the overwhelming need to pretend nothing is wrong. People are told to "put on a brave face," "try to have fun," or simply to smile to overcome their depression. Trying to follow this advice can be emotionally exhausting.
For others, the worst is the feeling of being in a standoff with your own mind. As this Twitter user says in another tweet, "#TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs fighting a disorder that wants to kill you."
In many situations, those living with depression feel physically or emotionally exhausted. The depressed mind frequently uses this as a way to make you feel even worse.
For others, it's something else entirely. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint an issue. Instead, it's a combination of so many things.
But whatever the worst part of depression is, it's nice knowing there are others out there fighting the same battle.
And to those cheering from the sidelines, the tag provides some great insight that you might otherwise have missed out on.