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Life presents its fair share of chal­lenges, and in dif­fi­cult times we can ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ings of sad­ness and lone­li­ness, and we can be­come with­drawn. Don’t worry, these feel­ings are nor­mal. They’re re­ac­tions to strug­gles and dis­ap­point­ments, and not nec­es­sar­ily in­dica­tive of a men­tal disorder. How­ever, there does come a time when nega­tive emo­tions turn the cor­ner and be­come cause for con­cern. When this hap­pens, it’s im­por­tant to know how to rec­og­nize you have a prob­lem and seek the sup­port of loved ones, which is one of the most im­por­tant tools for heal­ing.


When I was 24 years old, I had just got­ten en­gaged, I had pur­chased my first house with my then fi­ancé (now hus­band), and I was start­ing my dream job. De­spite these ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ments, I started to feel over­whelmed with sad­ness. I was quick to dis­miss those feel­ings as ad­just­ment pangs to a lot of big changes.

As the weeks went by, the sad­ness was joined by in­som­nia, a lack of ap­petite and a crush­ing lethargy. I went to see my fam­ily doc­tor, con­vinced I had a prob­lem with my thy­roid (the symp­toms of hy­pothy­roidism can mimic those of de­pres­sion). But when the blood tests came back nor­mal and she sug­gested I was strug­gling with de­pres­sion, it was a light bulb mo­ment.

Yes, it’s pos­si­ble and even nor­mal to ex­pe­ri­ence nega­tive emo­tions dur­ing happy life events, but in my case, those feel­ings latched on and re­fused to let go. They may have been trig­gered by the new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, but the per­sis­tence of those feel­ings in­di­cated a larger prob­lem.

For me, re­ceiv­ing a di­ag­no­sis was key to ac­cept­ing that I had de­pres­sion. In turn, it prompted me to get the help I needed and, most im­por­tantly, brought on the sup­port of close friends and fam­ily.


A men­tal ill­ness is as le­git­i­mate as any other ill­ness, but be­cause there aren’t al­ways phys­i­cal symp­toms, it’s eas­ily dis­missed — ei­ther by friends and fam­ily or by the very per­son who is suf­fer­ing. There’s a per­cep­tion that look­ing on the bright side, count­ing your bless­ings or get­ting fresh air will make de­pres­sion sim­ply go away.

Sadly, this of­ten re­sults in feel­ings of guilt from those who strug­gle with de­pres­sion, and ex­ac­er­bates the prob­lem. The truth is, if those who live with men­tal ill­ness could just “buck up”, why wouldn’t they? That said, it’s of­ten dif­fi­cult for friends and fam­ily to un­der­stand the deep-seated and per­sis­tent sad­ness that is the hall­mark of de­pres­sion, so com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key.

Tell your loved ones how you’re feel­ing. Ex­plain that clin­i­cal de­pres­sion is an ac­tual med­i­cal di­ag­no­sis, the cri­te­ria for which are out­lined in the Di­ag­nos­tic and Sta­tis­ti­cal

Man­ual of Men­tal Dis­or­ders. Point out the things they can do to sup­port you, like keeping you com­pany, cook­ing a few meals with you or pro­vid­ing a lift to your ther­apy ap­point­ments.

Above all, point out that val­i­da­tion, un­der­stand­ing and ac­tive lis­ten­ing are key to get­ting on the road to re­cov­ery. With the proper sup­port, those who strug­gle can live healthy and ful­filled lives.

EL­IZ­A­BETH WIENER AND LISA BROOK­MAN El­iz­a­beth Wiener is an ed­u­ca­tor who lives with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. Lisa Brook­man is a clin­i­cal psy­chother­a­pist based in Mon­treal. To­gether, they form @wisewomencanada

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