“When you’re depressed, nothing matters. When you’re sad, everything does.”
– Gloria Steinem, via @spiver, aka Susan Spiver, author of The Wisdom of a Broken Heart
“So you’re feeling a sense of hopelessness,” the therapist said to me.
“No, I’m feeling despair,” I clarified.
“Same thing. You’re feeling hopeless,” she came back.
“Nooo, I don’t feel it’s hopeless, I’m experiencing despair. I feel disheartened, but there’s still hope here,” I said.
“Hope and despair are pretty similar,” she said.
“Look it up.” I shrugged. “I’m going with despair.”
(We didn’t last too long as therapist/patient.)
I relish in semantics (“the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word.”) The more you know about the true definition of a word, the more powerful it is when you speak it. Precision is power.
Depressed and Sad are two very powerful, similar, misappropriated words. Portal words. Sacred words. And if we look more closely at them, we can claim what’s true for ourselves and set about transforming depression and sadness into their contrasting states.
Sadness hurts but it signals that you are very, very much alive.
Depression may be the cousin of sadness, sometimes the defended response to unyielding sadness, but it makes you feel anything but alive. It dulls, weighs, and messes with your memory of your true essential nature – which is that of joy.
I’ve been through wrenching heart breaks. I’ve left a decade-long relationship that is still intertwined with my DNA; been devastated by betrayal in business; said goodbye to overseas love that was doomed from the magical start. I’ve cried those guttural cries that dying animals make, I’ve canceled meetings because grief caught me off guard en route. I moved arthritically, lugging my heart in a wagon, to get groceries and tend to life on the surface. And through it all, I’ve felt undeniably, and intensely alive. And this, this is sadness. Acute, sometimes enduring, but always sensory and evocative, sadness.
When you’re sad, you’re feeling. Sometimes, more than you want to. You wish you could be despondent, but the sadness is sharp and it bleeds your attention from you.
Depression – a term our med-happy nation uses much too glibly – dulls one’s feelings. Where sadness makes you feel raw and skinless, depression is like wearing a snow suit and mittens and wondering why you can’t feel the caress of life. Sadness strips you. As I was just reminded, “Sadness is so f–king cleansing.” Depression is muddy and muffling and numbing.
Depression vs. Sadness
Each comes with different gifts, challenges and assignments
Each is a sacred state. Both divine and brutal.
But not the same.
When you respect the difference, you’re closer to the cure.
Danielle LaPorte is the author of The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide for Creating Success on Your Own Terms (from Random House/Crown). An inspirational speaker, former think tank exec and business strategist, she is the creator of the online program The Spark Kit: A Digital Experience for Entrepreneurs and co-author of Your Big Beautiful Book Plan. Over a million visitors have gone for her straight-up advice on DanielleLaPorte.com, a site that has been deemed “the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality.”
You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter @daniellelaporte