Nobody likes a whiner.
These are people who are filled to the brim with self-pity — a sense the world is against them. They can’t get a break. Bad things seem to always happen to them. Promotions don’t come their way. Their kids never call enough or come by. Their ex ruined their entire life.
Happiness eludes them. And they don’t waste much time in telling you about it.
Self-pity prevents someone from taking responsibility or realizing potential solutions. It’s paralyzing.
Then there’s depression.
Depression is far from feeling sorry for yourself.
Someone who’s clinically depressed is dealing with an unwanted and unchosen barrage of negative, destructive thoughts and emotions. When you’re drowning in those thoughts and emotions, it’s very hard to be engaged with others or interested in anything outside of your own head. At times, you’re fighting for your own life. Literally. That very detachment can be unfairly criticized and labeled as, “You’re just feeling sorry for yourself. Snap out of it, and start thinking about someone other than yourself.”
That is like telling someone who’s deaf to listen — or blind to see. At that moment, until the depression subsides, the mind isn’t capable of healthy thinking.
The more severe the depression, the more difficult it is to crawl out.
This Ted Talk video with Andrew Solomon eloquently describes the struggle.
We make healing more difficult by stigmatizing someone for having depression.
How? Because seeking help, revealing all of what’s going on, getting support and guidance become things that people will not do — for fear of being labeled as a whiner.
Especially women. In studies I conducted last year, a woman’s major reason for not seeking therapy was how it would be perceived socially. For men, it was due to their belief that they could fix it themselves.
It’s true that depression can remit on its own, with time. But not always — and not without doing damage while it exists.
We, as a culture, have to stop looking down on ourselves or others, for experiencing what is a disease.
Then there’s Perfectly Hidden Depression (PHD).
This is when depression hides underneath the surface, because pain or sadness isn’t allowed to be expressed. The people who experience it are all around us. They are movers and shakers — people who know how to get things done, and done well. Their lives look great — absolutely no whining allowed. They count their blessings, every day.
There’s not a self-pitying bone in their body.
No one sees what’s on the inside. No one knows the amount of insecurity, self-loathing or shame that exists in reality. Because it’s perfectly hidden.
In PHD, the fear of exposure can become intense. It can feel as if your whole world will cave in if anyone finds out that you struggle — or that you have secrets you’ve never shared.
The fact is — that it won’t. The far greater risk is getting lost in the depression.
Acknowledgment of pain or hurt from the past or the present leads to to understanding. If you wallow in that hurt, it can turn into self-pity, because you allow that pain to define you. But to make the connection between painful experiences and who you are today, how you’re making decisions and functioning, is helpful.
Self-compassion is healing. Self-pity is destructive.
There’s an immense difference between the two. Yet we get them confused.
And because of that, too many people are alone in their struggle with depression.
Have compassion for others. If they’re experiencing depression, listen. Support. Encourage appropriate treatment.
Have the same compassion — for yourself.
If you wonder if you have Perfectly Hidden Depression, you can take this quiz to find out. If you have either depression or PHD, please seek help from your doctor or a therapist.
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