I believe that most Americans don’t use words with their true meanings and it is dangerous. Depression versus being depressed, how many people know the true meaning of each? I know that a few years ago I didn’t. It wasn’t until depression hit close to home that I saw and learned what it really was. A family member who is very dear to me and whom I love very much was clinically diagnosed with depression. Looking at her made me sad because it was almost as if all the life had drained from her eyes leaving hollow pits.
She almost never joined into conversations because she felt she had nothing to say. Her appearance became disheveled and the person I once knew went missing, lost somewhere in the pits of despair and hopelessness. This wasn’t just a phase or feeling, this was a body shutting itself off to the world because the world was becoming too much to bear. This wasn’t someone just being depressed, this was someone who was battling a real illness. Depression is serious and it does affect lives of those who have it and the people around them.
This is why I do get upset when people jokingly say they must have depression or use depression as an insult towards others. Considering the severity and commonality of depression it does surprise me that so many people don’t know what it means or what it does to a person. People who assume the meaning of words can hurt people without even knowing. I know a very strong courageous mother of three who inspires me to better and to try harder in life. She is an amazing mother and loves her three young daughters so much that it astonishes me.
She is super sweet and kind, but this can all change in an instant. She has bipolar disorder and just one word can change her whole mood. I’ve seen her on her good and bad days so just like depression, I know how bipolar disorder affects people. Maybe this will help you understand why I get so upset when people say things like, “I am so bipolar sometimes! ” You see the definition of bipolar can fit with that sentence but there are better words to use. For example, are you truly bipolar or are you just indecisive?
To me it’s important to be careful of word choice and meaning because if you aren’t careful, you can offend someone. Depression and bipolar may be two somewhat extreme and relatable examples. A word that I’m sure most people, including myself, use that can be more offensive than we are aware of is ‘crazy’. Walking down the halls of your average high school you are likely to hear at least one person call another crazy, dumb, retarded, or lame. These words have been so easily incorporated into our daily vocabulary that most don’t consider them a serious insult, but if you were to think about it they really are.
Calling someone crazy or mental is saying their mental stability is not normal. If someone were truly crazy or mental they would likely need professional help. The words dumb and lame both actually have to do with the ability of the body. Dumb is a term used to describe people who can’t talk. I know that if I personally couldn’t talk for whatever reason I would be embarrassed and offended because I’d be considered dumb. Dumb shouldn’t be offensive to those who can’t speak but because basically everyone sees the term to mean stupid it is an insult.
Lame is the same way except it applies to people who can’t walk. Retarded isn’t as common as dumb because people can usually recognise this word to be as harmful easier. However, it’s still a large problem because retarded is meant to describe disabled and special people, not your enemy or friend. A question I pose to the world is, why should people be scared and offended because a term that should be used to describe their physical limitations has turned into an offensive word and joke? I do understand that it’s hard to stop using certain words because they’re so common.
I still forget to correct myself when I call someone crazy or dumb. This is the main problem, these words have become so normal that people see no reason to change. I don’t expect people to carry around a pocket dictionary or start talking in a formal form to friends. This isn’t what needs to happen because it won’t correct the problem at hand. I feel that people need to choose their words more carefully and be more aware that some insults can offend more than just the person you are aiming them at.
In a perfect world no word would be considered an insult and this wouldn’t be a problem, but this isn’t and never will be a perfect world. The best we can do is try our best to correct our language so the next generations don’t fall into the same path of confusion that we are currently in. I know that the world could become a much better place by simply correcting our language and finding the courage to stand up to those who are unwilling.