Depression is the same as any other illness

A couple weekends ago, my boyfriend woke up on Sunday morning with a temperature of almost 102. I took him to urgent care, where he found out he had strep throat.

In the little over a year that we've been dating, he really hasn't been sick once. Me, on the other hand, I felt like I had a stuffy nose or sore throat every few weeks this winter. But, for him, it was like all the colds I had throughout the year joined together and hit him all at once.

I had never seen him so bad. His whole body was sore, and he could barely even sit up on the couch without hurting. His voice was hoarse, he was kind of loopy, and his fingertips were so cold that they turned blue.

Can you remember a time when you felt this sick? While you're in it, you forget what it's like to feel healthy. It feels like the sickness is never going to end. And then, finally, when you feel better, you think, "Oh my god! This is what it's like to breathe again!" Usually, you take breathing for granted — until you feel sick and, at least for a little while, you promise to never again take for granted the simple joy of breathing without a nose full of snot.

This is what depression has felt like for me.

With depression, I forgot what it was like to feel happy. I forgot what it felt like to be able to breathe. And it felt like it was going to last forever.

No matter how many people claim to understand mental illness, many people still think mental and physical illnesses are different. But the thing is —they're really not. If anything, mental illness is worse (sorry, babe, not to diminish what you went through) because, while strep throat usually lasts three to seven days, without treatment, depression can last months or even years.

When you're sick, you don't tell yourself, "Nose, stop being stuffed up!" That obviously won't magically cure you. It's the same when you're depressed. You can't tell yourself, "Brain, stop being depressed! Start being happy!" Yet, still, I found myself trying to force myself to be happy and, when it didn't work, I felt frustrated and even more depressed.

You don't mentally berate yourself when you're sick. You don't tell yourself, "Stop it! You're so weak! Why do you feel like this? Just snap out of it!" You accept that you're sick, you seek treatment, and you rest until you feel better. We need to start treating mental illness in others and, more importantly, in ourselves, the same way.

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  1. Very helpful and useful post for those who are suffering from depression and mental illness. I'm also a certified mental health and addiction physician.
    Dr William Weeks Lyme

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