During the years I was battling with depression, from time to time I would hear people label it a disease. I appreciated the grace they were offering me and everything, but I always thought they were mistaken. I saw them as well-intentioned but probably just unwilling to deliver the hard truth to weak people. I always felt like I just needed to be mentally stronger, get off my butt, and snap out of this. It wasn’t like there was some rare bacteria in my brain or anything else quantifiable going on. The blame, I felt certain, rested on my own shoulders.
Now that depression’s grip no longer holds my life, I tend to see things more clearly. I understand that depression isn’t a disease in the technical sense, it’s more of a side effect of mental and emotional pain, but in the practical sense it really behaves like a disease and should be thought of as one.
Diseases have defining characteristics which mark them, and clinical depression has its signs and symptoms too like sadness, irritability, sleep changes, and difficulty thinking clearly. Also, when you talk with people who are suffering from depression, you can plainly see its fingerprint. Like a disease depression also attacks a specific part of you, namely your feelings and emotions.
Just recently I asked a friend of mine, who is both struggling with depression and job-hunting, how an interview went. He said that it went well but that he didn’t “feel like anything was worth trying for” and that he was going to go get drunk. My friend is a bright, passionate guy with plenty of goals and possibilities for the future. Right now, however, he’s entangled by depression, and he can’t feel positive emotions like hope and anticipation. This may sound strange but there was no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t really him saying those words. It was his depression. It really is its own entity that needs to be isolated from the rest of its host (my attempt to use a technical term) in order to fight it.
Diseases also have specific cures. There are vaccines and antibiotics that are used to fight them. One main premise of this website and ministry is that there is a particular way out of depression. There are certain things that your brain, body, and even soul need in order to come out of this condition. Many of our articles and links are meant to guide you to these antidotes. Some are also there to warn you of things that will only cause you to sink deeper into the pit (the anti-antidotes?). For instance, if you try to simply out work depression or attempt to motivate yourself by internally berating your character, strength, work-ethic, etc., you will certainly end up worse in the long run.
So yes, I do feel that depression is a disease. In some ways, it’s the most sinister of diseases. It attacks positive emotions and the will to live, dance, laugh, and be free. In the worst of cases, it can be deadly by actually manipulating someone into taking his or her life with their own hands. I don’t like to talk about that either, but I think it’s important to remember how serious depression can be. It’s heart-breaking to see people put off receiving help when there’s so much on the line.
The good news is that there are cures and that it is temporary. You can absolutely come out on the other side of this strong and free. If you’re struggling with depression, I know it’s hard to feel it, but please believe me when I say it won’t last forever.