The word depression is depressing.

“She suffers from depression.” When I hear phrases like this I am confused. What does that mean, exactly? Like all abstract terms, it requires further explanation. 

“She’s a good mother” is another abstract phrase. Ask ten people what a “good mother” is and you will get ten different responses. No two people can agree what it means. We need more descriptive language.

Depression is typically used as a noun. A thing. But what we mean by depression is a feeling, a state of being, and of actions, or lack thereof. Adjectives and verbs.

“14.8 million U.S. adults suffer depression each year.” Oh really, we all feel the same? This kind of language does nothing to explain what is really going on. In fact, it turns the uniqueness of an individual into a statistic. We are all much more than a statistic. Each of us are complex characters with a variety of feelings, each with a particular life situation that is not like anyone else.

“Depression” kills our uniqueness, our richness of human qualities. It is a lazy way of speaking, and it lumps us all into a noun that evokes little to no emotional response.

Rather than overusing abstract terms like depression, it might be more effective and accurate in the long run to slow down a bit and use some adjectives, verbs, and metaphors. “I feel heavy, like I have weights on my legs.” “I feel cold and weary, as if I have walked for years and all I want to do is sleep forever.” “I feel like I am living in a cage, stuck, angry that I am unable to leave.” “She looks as if she has a blanket covering her, unaware of the rest of the world.”

Or describe a scene with images: “I see myself as walking through a pungent swamp in the dark, and all I can hear is my own heartbeat..but there is a little light ahead...” This kind of language allows for more specific qualities that more closely reflect how we feel, and permits multiple feelings, even contradictions, which we all have. We are all paradoxes. Sad and despairing, but hopeful. Dejected AND optimistic. Apathetic AND irritated, with a touch of panic.

We need to pay attention to the words we use. Have fun with language. Dare to be eloquent. Use adjectives and verbs. Free yourself from flat, depressive words. We are not statistics.