Your self-diagnosis probably isn’t real

Cailee Zeraat, Contributing Writer

Trigger Warning: Depression

I have depression—the real, clinical kind. The one where I don’t eat for a few days, sleep way too much sometimes and can barely write this article because my motivation from two days ago is gone and probably won’t come back for the next week. Am I lazy? Not really. I’m high-functioning most days; I go to class and finish all my assignments on time. I even go to the gym, play games online and cook elaborate meals for myself. None of that is enough to make that feeling of eternal dread disappear.

I know how to deal with my depression, though. My coping strategies make it a little better, but I’ll never get over it. Real depression doesn’t go away, but rather stays with you your whole life. Real depression involves doing everything in your power to fight it off—only for it to not leave you alone.

You, however, might not know what depression really is. It’s not the sadness you feel from failing an exam. It’s not the looming existential crisis about your career path after college. It’s not even the mourning you go through when your mom dies. You will feel better after studying and getting a good enough score on your final to pass the class. You will feel better when you go to the Career Center and secure your next summer internship. You will feel better after crying for three months straight and going out with friends who can cheer you up. You’ll get over it, and you will be fine.

I won’t ever be fine, though. This feeling will keep coming back, even without reason—because depression just happens. It doesn’t wait for your boyfriend to break up with you or for your final grade to come out. Depression is a lifetime affliction, and rotating feelings are distinct from that.

I am sick of hearing every reasonably stressed and upset college student claim to have a life-crippling mental illness. A depression self-diagnosis you get from watching a TikTok therapist is not the reason why you feel bad all the time. Rather, maybe you feel bad all the time because you never learned how to deal with your emotions properly. Instead of genuinely trying to feel better, you decide to use depression as an explanation so you don’t have to confront your feelings healthily—or maybe you feel bad all the time because you only drink pink lemonade from Tomlinson and haven’t done any self-care other than showering for the past month.
You might be wondering why I care so much. Why does it even matter if you self-diagnose? It matters because you actively contribute to the stigma of my mental illness. You got your idea of depression from social media and Google searches—I got my idea of depression from 10 years of therapy. I cannot tell you how many times I will tell someone I have depression and hear, “Have you tried working out?” Maybe for you—the self-diagnosed—working out does the trick, or curling up under a blanket for the weekend gets your life back on track. That doesn’t work for me. But that person who told me to work out probably thinks they’re giving me pretty solid advice because they knew someone who felt better after a gym session. News flash: they probably didn’t have clinical depression. So when you start telling your mom and your friends that you indeed have depression, and then two weeks later you feel on top of the world because you let yourself go through a normal cycle of emotions, they will likely think that is the reality of the illness. They think it’s a problem that can easily be fixed. Now, when I say I have depression to those same people, they will wonder why I still say I have depression two weeks later. “Well, did you try journaling? You must not be helping yourself.”

A depression diagnosis is not the solution you should be hoping for when you’re feeling sad, stressed or even really, really angry. Talk to some friends, play some games or go downtown for the weekend. If you are self-diagnosed and you truly think you have depression, and nothing you have tried makes you feel better, go see a therapist. Stop guessing. A stranger on social media can’t tell you if you have depression. Then, if you see a therapist and they say you have depression, start treatment. If they say you don’t actually have depression, perhaps keep seeing them anyway so you can learn to deal with your emotions like a functioning adult and can stop using depression as a scapegoat for why you feel bad all the time. My diagnosis is not your costume.

National Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 988

CWRU Counselor on Call: 216.368.5872