Viewing Depression as an Experience Empowers You

August 17, 2016 Tiffanie Verbeke

I realized recently depression is an experience, not just a diagnosis and thinking of depression as an experience empower me. Depression spurs challenging emotions and physical symptoms, and it also changes the way I think about things. Depression influences the way I respond to various stimuli, and the way I arrange my daily schedule and plan vacations. Depression impacts the way I interact with people, and the relationships I choose to maintain. Depression is something I experience, so I’ve been trying to define my depression more by its impact to my life than by the medical diagnosis. I'm empowering myself by viewing depression as an experience.

Depression Is an Experience and a Diagnosis

Vast amounts of medical research explains the causes, symptoms, and treatments involved with depression, but there is more to it than its scientific definition. Basing my own experience on scientific research is unfair to myself, because everyone's experience with depression is different. Every individual in the world has a different brain, so it makes sense that every individual affected by depression has a unique experience. The validity of my depression should not be influenced by how closely my symptoms match up to the symptoms established by the medical community.

For example, the list of symptoms of depression is long because all of those symptoms are correlated with depression, not because a person with depression exhibits all of those symptoms. Exhibiting only three out of five symptoms does not mean that my depression is invalid. Instead, it means that my experience of depression is different than others, who may demonstrate four out of five. The same idea applies to coping mechanisms, which I addressed last week. While there are tons of coping mechanisms that can potentially work for people with depression, successful coping takes many forms.

Analyzing Depression Experience for Empowerment

I’m practicing a process of self-analysis that addresses more personal aspects of my depression. I look at what triggers intense feelings of sadness or loneliness, what rituals I should practice to achieve or maintain emotional balance, what food/drink to avoid, and other things. By utilizing this practice of personal analysis, I am understanding my depression in terms of how it impacts me as an individual, instead of how medicine expects it to impact me. I find analyzing my depression experience empowering.

It is important to understand the science behind depression, but once I reached that understanding, I found that the next step in working with my depression was to start looking at how depression uniquely impacted my own brain. With this new perspective, I find that I am better at handling my fluctuating brain.

Depression Experience Included Using the Diagnosis as an Excuse

Viewing depression as an experience, not a diagnosis, empowers you. You are not your mental illness. Experience depression on your terms. Check this out.In the past, I’ve used my depression as an excuse to avoid taking care of myself. Before I sat down on the couch, knowing that I wouldn't get up, I'd say out loud, "You know what, I have depression. It's fine."

I'd say it when I skipped meals, or avoided reaching out to my support network, or got snippy with my partner. By focusing on the label and its corresponding expectations, I would excuse myself from exercising the self-control that I should use in order to properly manage my depression.

Looking past the depression label to my depression experience empowers me to add a rebuttal to that phrase. I have depression but that does not mean I should be a couch potato, or ignore my basic needs. I have depression but I should not be rude to my partner. I have depression but its symptoms are not predetermined, and I have control over my own experience.

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APA Reference
Verbeke, T. (2016, August 17). Viewing Depression as an Experience Empowers You, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Tiffanie Verbeke

Tiffanie Verbeke is a writer who delights in thinking and despises typing. She gets fired up about mental health and societal inequalities and she finds joy in driving under shadowy trees, running when it's raining, and kids' brutal honesty. Tiffanie welcomes feedback, so contact her freely. Connect with Tiffanie on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and her personal blog.

Amanda Lawrence
September, 29 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hey Tiffanie,
I think that this tattoo idea does exactly as you say, giving people an opportunity to share their experience with people. It doesn't have to be a stigmatized label anymore, as we can wear it on our bodies to share with the world our experience. Going back to your article, its a reminder that, "I have depression, BUT...etc. etc."So yes, I think it is an empowering tool.
I wonder how empowering the tattoo becomes when faced with those who reinforce the tattoo as a negative label, saying things such as "everyone gets depressed", "she's just trying to get some attention". Obviously we'd hope that doesn't happen, but I fear that this might be a social cost. Maybe?
Thanks for replying!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 30 2016 at 4:34 am

Hi Amanda,
There absolutely is the possibility of a negative response, but I think that depends on several factors. The way I see it, if the person with the tattoo finds it empowering, and as long as they love wearing it, then the negative responses they might receive are neither here nor there. A lot of people experience depression, and everyone deals with depression a little differently. If people feel negatively about it, then they probably have some internal obstacles that they need to overcome in order to respectfully view the symbol without feeling the need to be rude about it.

Amanda Lawrence
September, 26 2016 at 3:02 pm

Wonderful article Tiffanie. It's great to see how others are working through their strugugles with Mental Illness, and certainly very inspiring
As a bit of a side note, I have seen tattoos of semicolons on people suffering with mental illnesses that speak to their empowerment, and the will to go on. A representative for this empowerment initiative says (in regards to the semicolon) “It represents continuance. Authors usually use the semicolon when they choose not to end the sentence. You are the author and the sentence is your life, and you’re choosing to continue.” I got that from another article here:
What do you think about this empowerment idea?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 28 2016 at 5:02 am

Hi Amanda,
Thank you for your kind words. I've seen semicolon tattoos too, and I often see others draw them on during Suicide Prevention Awareness Week/Month. I think they are a good opportunity for people to connect with others of a similar mental health background. Additionally, they start a conversation with those who may not know what the semicolon tattoo means, raising awareness of mental health and its obstacles. While I do not have one, I think that if a semicolon tattoo empowers others to support one another and share in the mental health journey, then it is doing a good job of helping others start and continue the mental health conversation.
What do you think?

Ella Lakatani
August, 24 2016 at 12:32 pm

I try to avoid this symptoms and in the past I was suffered a bad anxiety attack that I am really scared of going back there again.I didn't realise this anxiety attack disorder till I was booked for counselling. A great support from my children and my sister and her children get me this far. I resigned from my career, stayed home only to catch a taxi to where I wanted to go for an appointment. Sometimes I had to come back home if I felt sick or upset. My whole life go down the hill so fast that I have no idea how to cope. I followed how they have advised me to do. I booked to go swimming even pushed to go for a long walk. What my sister did, I will ever cherished and her children for the rest of my life. They made me to do things and get back into real reliability. I know it was a huge challenge to walk out of the front door. I need to stay positive at all times and avoid negativity surrounding or having a conversation with family can easily become a negative to my way of thinking. I avoid getting involved with family celebrations and have plenty of rest. It really worked and to keep appointment my good advised to whoever diagnose with the symptoms. Please don't wait till you cannot handle the situation. You need to seek help straight away. It is an disorder. SO get out have plenty exercise and go out with friends and do not shut yourself and be a prisoner in your own home.
I was member for YMCA committed everyday 5.30 early swimmer. I was lucky to have my photo taken by a photographer promoting the facilities at the gym that morning which I have no idea that I am in that photo displayed at the gym in the community or on the wall outside YMCA at Karangahape towards town. Being bless..

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 24 2016 at 1:36 pm

Hi Ella,
Thank you for sharing your story. You demonstrate immense strength and determination. You are awesome.
Keep fighting the good fight,

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