The Poverty of “Depression” – by Simeiqi He, Graduate Associate

Depression seems like an awkward and scary word, isn’t it? By simply opening our mouth and uttering this word – “depression”, we can very quickly feel the awkwardness, the shame, and the strangeness running through our body. Even when we try to be as quiet as possible, even when we are barely making any sound, the feeling still doesn’t escape us. This scary word “depression” seems to have the power to cast a shadow on our world and, sometimes even worse, on our identities. And before long, we are trapped in the fear of becoming, if not already being, the “depressed person” in the eyes of others and of our own.

But why? Why does this word “depression” have to be so awkward, so scary, and so shameful? Why does this short word – with only ten letters – have the power to paralyze us and alter our sense of reality? Is it just the word? Sure, the word does seem to have terrifying teeth, but it doesn’t take long to realize that there is more to the word. Somehow the word may mean that others will start to look at us differently and treat us differently. The word may mean that suddenly all of our great achievements in life and everything we used to be proud of now surrender to this new condition. The word may mean that suddenly our greatest hopes and greatest visions in life shrink to a narrow focus “to get better.” And even worse, the word may mean that we are it, stamped and owned by “depression” for the rest of our lives. But is it, my friend? Is this really our destiny, our unchanging fate? If it is, then should it be?

Someone once said, “it’s a strange poverty of the English language…that we use this same word, DEPRESSION, to describe how a kid feels when it rains on his birthday, and to describe how somebody feels the minute before they commit suicide.” Friend, our language has failed us. This word “depression” has failed us. Or maybe it is the other way around, our society has failed to look at this word with utmost honesty – to acknowledge the simplicity of the ten letter word and to acknowledge the impossibility of it to overpower the richness of human lives. Our society and our culture, with its own insincerity, have granted this word “depression” too much power to turn us against each other and over our identities and our dignity. And this, my friend, I believe should not be!

It is a painful reality that depression is hurtful, not just the word itself, but the experience of it. I would never deny that the experience of depression is an experience of suffering. It wounds us, breaks us open, and makes us vulnerable. But my friend, do you know there is something else in the world that breaks us open and makes us vulnerable? It is love. A true and deep love of life doesn’t start in places where all is happy, on the contrary, it starts from the messiness, the wounds and the healing. My friend, do you know our acknowledgement of the painful experience of depression and its complexity is indeed a precursor for healing and a deep love of life? Do you know that it is a sign of profound courage and protest against all forces that seek to devalue our dignity and the richness of our lives? Depression seems to have the power to isolate us, but many of us also believe that our human instinct of longing for love has a greater ability to empower us to reach out, to unite with people, to heal, and help the world heal with us.

Call Simeiqi at 817-897-8882 or email