Dear Douglas,


I have depression and I am not able to do things I did before. I was a good student, but now I cannot concentrate and I procrastinate a lot. I feel unmotivated. Subjects that used to make me interested seem very boring… nothing can make me feel excited or curious. I miss a lot of school because I just want to sleep. But the biggest problem for me now is that I feel so guilty for being a burden on my parents. They are paying for a good school and I make them worry. I think they are getting frustrated with me. My father yelled at me last night telling me that I am lazy and that I don’t know what a hard life is… I should be thankful, but I am wasting it. It makes me feel like it would be better if I wasn’t here. I don’t know what to do.


— Down to the Ground


Dear Down,


Yes, you are depressed and it is not your fault. Depression is a mood disorder that affects millions of people. Almost 50% of people will have some form of depression at some point during their lifetime. Because it is invisible, we often don’t see it as a medical illness, the same way we see diabetes or asthma, both of which limit the way a person functions. While sometimes people go through bad days and feel “blue” for a short period, depression is when those feelings last longer and affect motivation. It can cause sadness, sleep problems, low energy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions and can sometimes generate suicidal thoughts.


Often, when we look closely at what happens with depression, we see how it creates a downward spiral. Because we feel bad we are less able to function normally and meet the expectations of parents, teachers, friends and ourselves. So feeling bad leads to feeling worse.


We try to do things but become frustrated with ourselves, even angry or self-critical. We feel out of control, a feeling no-one likes. Life becomes more like an obligation, a chore. We try to make ourselves do things, but never really feel like we are fully present or enjoying ourselves. Our sense of humour disappears. We start seeing things through the lens of our depression, how bad life is. Every day feels like we are walking up hill, it takes so much effort.


One important aspect to depression is the way it affects the relationships we have with family and friends. It is clear that your father, like many family members and loved ones, does not fully understand the impact of depression on a person’s ability to function normally. He is interpreting your behaviour as a choice you are making, being lazy and not appreciating the good life you have. I am sure that it is because he loves you that he wants the best for you, and also suffers when he sees you suffering. To me it is an indication that you have gone past the point where you should seek professional help and get treatment for your mood disorder.


These days, mental health professionals know a lot about treating depression, both with talk therapy and with medications that can influence one’s mood. If you are having thoughts of suicide or wondering if you will ever feel better, you should contact someone whom you can talk to that is trained to help. It is not uncommon to have thoughts of wanting to escape the bad feelings of depression and the thought of killing one’s self occurs to many people. It is a strong indicator that it is time to seek professional help.


I will include some brief suggestions that are intended for your family and friends who might want to help but do not know how.


1) Educate yourself about depression so that you have realistic expectations about what happens and how long it might last and what can be done to overcome it.


2) Provide unconditional love and support. It is not the person’s fault that they are depressed.


3) Take care of yourself, while being supportive of the depressed person. Your wellness is an important part of what helps the person you are supporting.


4) Talk about your feelings, how hard it is and what you worry about, to people who can support you.


5) Don’t take the symptoms of a depressed person personally. Example: someone who is depressed might not want to do the same things they used to enjoy with you. Don’t take their withdrawal as a rejection of your friendship.


6) Try to be a team which is defeating depression, together with the help of professional support.


The good news is that people who go through depression usually get better. Some say that it is a painful, but healthy way for people to go through changes in their inner world, something some of us need to do from time to time.


I am glad that you wrote about what is true for you and I hope you take the next steps to get the help and support you need. No more feeling guilty about something that is not your fault.


— Douglas


Do you have a question you would like Douglas’s help with? You can email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Personal details will not be printed

Douglas Holwerda

Douglas is an American trained psychotherapist, writer of the Dear Abby-esque monthly column in the Word, "Dear Douglas". He holds to the notion that the living of life is a creative endeavour... an eternal adventure without promises. And that we are both shaped by the journey and the shapers of what is possible. Our greatest hope is to find love and connection along the way. Live it all.

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