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depression vs. sadness: the power of mincing words

“When you’re depressed, nothing matters. When you’re sad, everything does.”
- Gloria Steinem, via @spiver, aka Susan Spiver, author of The Wisdom of a Broken Heart

“So you’re feeling a sense of hopelessness,” the therapist said to me.
“No, I’m feeling despair,” I clarified.
“Same thing. You’re feeling hopeless,” she came back.
“Nooo, I don’t feel it’s hopeless, I’m experiencing despair. I feel disheartened, but there’s still hope here,” I said.
“Hope and despair are pretty similar,” she said.
“Look it up.” I shrugged. “I’m going with despair.”

(We didn’t last too long as therapist/patient.)

I relish in semantics (“the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word.”) The more you know about the true definition of a word, the more powerful it is when you speak it. Precision is power.

Depressed and Sad are two very powerful, similar, misappropriated words. Portal words. Sacred words. And if we look more closely at them, we can claim what’s true for ourselves and set about transforming depression and sadness into their contrasting states.

Depression may be the cousin of sadness, sometimes the defended response to unyielding sadness, but it makes you feel anything but alive. It dulls, weighs, and messes with your memory of your true essential nature…which is that of joy.

I’ve been through wrenching heart breaks. I’ve left a decade-long relationship that is still intertwined with my DNA; been devastated by betrayal in business; said goodbye to overseas love that was doomed from the magical start. I’ve cried those guttural cries that dying animals make, I’ve canceled meetings because grief caught me off guard en route. I moved arthritically, lugging my heart in a wagon, to get groceries and tend to life on the surface. And through it all, I’ve felt undeniably, and intensely alive. And this, this is sadness. Acute, sometimes enduring, but always sensory and evocative, sadness.

When you’re sad, you’re feeling. Sometimes, more than you want to. You wish you could be despondent, but the sadness is sharp and it bleeds your attention from you.

Depression — a term our med-happy nation uses much too glibly — dulls one’s feelings.

Where sadness makes you feel raw and skinless, depression is like wearing a snow suit and mittens and wondering why you can’t feel the caress of life.

Sadness strips you. As I was just reminded, “Sadness is so f–king cleansing.” Depression is muddy and muffling and numbing.

Depression vs. Sadness
Each comes with different gifts, challenges and assignments
Each is a sacred state. Both divine and brutal.
But not the same.

When you respect the difference, you’re closer to the cure.