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    By Amy and Bernadette

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Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may hurt even worse.

sticks and stonesYou can minimize it by calling it semantics, or dismissively put it down to being “politically correct,” but the wanton misuse of certain words can truly be damaging.

I’ve seen a number of postings on social media about the hurtful and ignorant use of the word “retarded” to denote stupidity or lack of social grace.  It’s an archaic word, once used as a catch-all for those with developmental disabilities, and I think it’s always had a negative connotation. Its casual use may not have hurtful intentions, but it can definitely have hurtful consequences.

Another word misuse that absolutely makes me explode is the use of the word “gay” to describe something considered stupid, uncool, or out of the realm of normality.  This usage clearly implies that being a gay person is stupid, uncool, and out of the realm of normality.  I have been known to interrupt the conversation of strangers and rant furiously when I’ve overheard this usage in public.  (My family members, though they totally agree with me, have learned to slink away and pretend they don’t know me).

Another maddening word use has hit me a few times recently.  It’s the use of the word “depressed” to describe just feeling down or having a bad day. I know I’m a little too close to this particular subject, but I think this particular word misuse is about to become my new soapbox rant.  These are the things I might say:

You are not depressed because you overslept, were late to the gym, and ran out of your favorite shade of lipstick. 

Don’t say you’re depressed because the flowers in your garden bed aren’t doing well. 

Don’t tell me you’re depressed because your favorite radio station just changed formats. 

Because if you do, I might just hurl all over your perky and pristine little running shoes and your adorable yoga pants with “PINK” plastered on the butt.

Being depressed is a state of mental illness. It is not caused by a simple inconvenience, an unfortunate event on one given day, or a “total bummer.”  It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and/or a long-term series of extremely challenging life events, and/or severe trauma.

Being depressed is not being “down” for a bit.  It is not feeling sad on one given day.  Depression is a dark, heavy cloud pushing down on you and keeping you from experiencing life in a healthy and satisfying way.  It is crying uncontrollably for no reason in places and at times that create embarrassment.  It is inability to sleep, or the desire to stay in bed forever. It is any number of very real and painful symptoms.  It can last a very long time – literally years and years.  Getting over being depressed almost always requires medical intervention and therapy, and sometimes requires hospitalization.  It affects every aspect of your life, and it seriously affects the people who are closest to you. And when someone wantonly uses the word “depressed” about trivial happenings, they diminish the pain and suffering of those who unfortunately know what depression is all about.

In short, if you don’t want a 48-year-old, nosy, and seriously pissed off woman interrupting you and telling you off, DO NOT use the phrase  “I’m depressed” unless you know exactly what you’re saying.  Oh, and don’t toss around the words “retarded” and “gay,” either.

Thank you, and good day.

-Amy

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6 Responses

  1. You are so right. Even when I’ve had very sad things happen to me (like a bad break up or being turned down for a job I worked 3 years to try to get), I know they’re not making me depressed. They’re making me sad, and sadness passes. When you’re depressed, there’s no “cheering up”.

  2. AMEN! Such an important message. I’d like to throw the term “OCD” into the mix, too. You’re not “OCD” because you like your DVDs alphabetized or your ponytail lump-free. Quirks are not synonymous with an anxiety disorder. When I hear things like this, it goes all over me – much in the same way that misusing “depressed” gets to you.

    EXCELLENT post!

    • Oh, you are so right – I’ve heard that one, too. People seem to think they’re funny or clever when they call themselves “so OCD.” But it is totally not funny. Thanks for adding to the list!

  3. All of these annoy me too – perhaps the “depressed” one the most because I know what it’s like to really have it, as well as OCD.

    Whilst most people don’t mean any harm by it – they don’t realise how that one word impacts how people see the meaning of that word.

    Back when I was a Christian, there was a woman at church and her husband had been diagnosed with cancer – in telling about her week, and how difficult it has been, she said she realised that she wasn’t depression but distressed. I always thought this was an important difference to acknowledge.

  4. That is an important difference. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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