“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” I was told. “There are people far worse off than you.”

The world is obviously full of suffering and misery, and someone complaining about feeling “blue” might come across as annoyingly frivolous, but it’s important to understand that depression is much more than that. While everyone experiences sadness at some point in their life, depression is a complex interaction between the brain and body that transcends fleeting emotions, according to a June 24 Harvard Health Publishing article. It’s a mental illness that athletes, comedians and singers — among many others — suffer from daily, despite living comfortable lives. It’s a mental illness that I continuously live with.

If you can indulge me in some metaphorical melodrama, I’d like to describe what it’s like to live with chronic depression.

Imagine you are treading water during a hurricane and feel the crashing waves, torrential rains and turbulent winds drag you down to the bottom of the ocean; meanwhile, those around you see a beautiful clear sky and crystal blue ocean, wondering why you are distraught.

This is what depression looks like.

Imagine being stranded on a snowy mountaintop. You shout for help, but the only audible noises are your own echoes reverberating down the mountainside. You shout again with more vigor, but the only thing heard is an echo that dissipates into nothingness. A lonely silence blankets itself across the mountain.

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This is what depression sounds like.

Imagine weights are tethered to your hands and feet. Constantly drained of energy, your posture is slouched, and you drag your feet from place to place. Your head is pounding as if your brain is trying to break out of its skull, and you can’t think through the thick fog clouding your judgement. Apathy blankets you in a cold embrace and you lose interest in things you normally enjoy.

This is what depression feels like.

Depression is drowning in an empty lake. It is being crushed by 1,000 tons of invisible bricks. It is living in a nightmare while the world comfortably dreams. Much like a military drone, depression can strike at any given moment without warning.

I must emphasize this isn’t a first-world sob story about how depression makes life suck, even during times of social stability and economic excess. There are people around the world trapped in situations with life or death consequences. Hong Kong protesters clashing with state police; millions of displaced refugees fleeing war-torn Syria; multiple human rights violations perpetrated in Russia and North Korea; these are among the few problems plaguing the world that go beyond my capacity to fathom.

Despite that, depression is still very real. It is not a matter of “feeling sorry for oneself,” or feeling “blue.” Depression does not care how much money you make, or how many friends you have or how talented you are — depression is no respecter of persons.

Depression is a part of who I am, and I’m not ashamed of it.

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