I hate when people tell me that I shouldn’t let my depression define me.
Depression is and has been a part of my life for the past 7 years — my entire adult life and a third of my life as a whole. Depression is an integral part of my identity; it is something I struggle with each and every day, whether it’s a day when I’m smiling or a day when I don’t have the mental or emotional fortitude to get out of bed.
To say that my depression doesn’t define me would be a lie not only to others, but a lie to myself. Telling someone not to let their depression define them isn’t just disrespectful. It’s harmful. It undermines and invalidates their feelings, reinforcing a dangerous stigma about mental health.
When a person hears “don’t let your depression define you!” they hear “I want the good, but I’m unwilling to listen to the bad.” People with depression are led to believe that their feelings are a burden on those around them and don’t speak up when they are struggling.
If one truly wishes to support someone with depression, they must be willing to listen to both the good and the bad. Be there for the person on their good days, but be willing to offer a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on on their bad days. You don’t have to be someone’s therapist to support them. You just have to be their friend.
What it comes down to is this: we must accept that depression is often a defining characteristic for some people and remember that if you can’t handle someone at their worst, you don’t deserve to see them at their best.