Content Warning: Depression and mental health, Eating Disorders
Depression can often be a slippery slope. One negative thought leads to another, which leads to another and another until you feel like you’re suffocating under the weight of all the disappointments you have swimming around in your mind. Depression is an extremely personal and unique thing to deal with, and anyone who has gone through any bout of it will know that. But despite depression’s unique ways of harming individuals, the way it makes you feel is universal — like you’re not good enough, like you will never be good enough. Saying depression makes you sad is an understatement — sad doesn’t begin to describe the way it tortures your soul day in and day out, how it cripples you to nothing. And yet, for some reason, we live in a society that seems to glorify it. We treat depression like a companion that we’re forced to have for the rest of our lives, like baggage that we can never make lighter or discard. We blame depression for our falling grades, weight fluctuations, mood swings and fractured relationships. We make depression the reason behind our mistakes but not in any serious way — we joke about it. We make memes about depression and its detrimental effects on our lives, making this very serious mental health problem the butt of the joke. We live in a society that glorifies depression rather than faces it head-on. It’s easier to make fun of depression and the way it destroys your life rather than at least trying to find ways to live alongside it.
At the height of my depression in my sophomore year, I was sitting alone in my single in the basement of ML for hours on end. I watched as my Bio 2 grade plummeted and the number of classes I couldn’t get up for increased. I remember waking up at 8 a.m. one day and not being able to get up from my bed until 1 p.m., only to actually leave ML at 2:30. I self-medicated in numerous ways, from not eating to eating everything, from drinking until I was sick to not speaking to anyone for days. And yet, in the moment, I thought I was perfectly fine. I would reason that the feelings of inadequacy and deep sadness were normal. Everyone around me seemed to be on the same struggle bus as me, so why worry?
When I spoke of my life with other friends, these struggles seemed normal. Other people were not only accepting of my behavior, but also making jokes about my total lack of control on my own life. It was funny to us that I was desperately trying to feel alive, but only sinking further into my depression day after day.
From a distanced, unattached point of view, the idea of not being able to get up is funny. It seems to, on the surface, stem from an unstoppable instinct to procrastinate responsibility and skirt culpability. It seems like the classic picture of a college student we have so often painted — tired, sluggish and brain just a little too full of information to have any motivation to keep going. Yet, we did not create this image by accident. We created this image because that is, in fact, the typical college student. You get thrown into college with little to no real-life experience or understanding and are suddenly told you have to learn to be a full adult, all by yourself. It’s hard, and it drains you. So yeah, that is funny.
But where must we draw the line? Because if you bother to look hard enough, you can see that some people are not just tired from the amount of responsibility that was suddenly given to them, but also from a deeper source. Their very souls are tired. And joking about having a heavy heart each day, struggling to feel anything more than pain or sadness does nothing to get at the root of the problem.
Depression ruins lives and relationships and yet we laugh at it like it’s nothing more than a gag reel on a silly sitcom. We take aspects of this painful mental health problem and giggle at them, as though that will make the harsh reality of them a little easier to handle. But that’s no way to deal with a devil. Spinning depression into a joke undercuts the true traumatic experiences of individuals living with it. It discourages people to be real and vulnerable with what they feel because no one wants to have their pain become the butt of the joke. Sometimes, the jokes can make depression even worse if everyone is laughing at their pain and is seemingly okay with self-medicating, then why should we even try for a better, healthier life? What’s the point of seeking treatment and help if we normalize being depressed?
At the end of the day, depression is not the natural state of the human mind. If it was, then we would never even notice it because it would be completely ingrained in us. If depression was the natural state then there would be no movements for healthy living, for clearer, more positive minds. And while laughing at it and making jokes may be helpful for some on their road to betterment, we need to recognize that the jokes are not a universal helper, but can become weights on someone’s shoulders. We need to recognize that we can do better, and we should do better, because we know better now.