Think of a time when you felt absolutely exhausted. Now imagine feeling that tired ALL THE TIME. But the physical exhaustion is nothing compared to the mental exhaustion. Not only are you fighting persistent, deeply unpleasant feelings, but—if you are someone who has recurring depression or a disorder with cycles—the depression is always in the back of your mind. You know that it will come back, and that when it does, regardless of how long it stays, you will temporarily forget what it was like to feel good.
Depression makes you feel sad, like you are grieving, but for no apparent reason. Life is actually going pretty well, no one died, nothing is wrong. Except it feels like every little thing is wrong. You experience the sobbing that is supposed to accompany a terrible event, only no such event has occurred. In fact, when something bad does happen and I feel sad for real, I often end up smiling through my tears because I realize that I finally have an actual reason to be sad. Sadness is not the same as depression. It is an emotion that lessens or passes in due time. For me, sadness is easy to handle. Depression, on the other hand, is nearly impossible.
Depression is like a sinister person whispering in your ear. It tells you only negative things, often things that you would never dream of saying to anyone else, let alone yourself. It magnifies your flaws, invents ones that aren’t even there, and criticizes and demeans you. You are stupid; you are ugly; you are fat; you are worthless. You are taking up too much space and you don’t deserve to live. No one cares about you, anyway. They’d all be better off without you. The depression makes you believe it. It makes you hate yourself.
Depression makes all of the decisions that you have to make throughout the day one million times harder than they should be. Deciding where or what (or whether) to eat, picking out cereal at the grocery store, deciding what to wear or whether or not to attend that event you were supposed to go to. You feel paralyzed, unable to make a choice.
Depression makes you feel like you want to die. I’m not going to get into suicidal thoughts or actions right now, so here I am just referring to the general feelings of wishing to no longer be alive, without wanting to act on those feelings. You wish you would fall asleep and never wake up, because everything is just too hard.
And that brings me to another point: depression makes you feel like someone else. In fact, it turns you into someone else. You are not your depression. It is not your real personality. That tired, sad, indecisive person is not you.