The Truth about Depression…Or, Please Don't Make Me Come Out of the Corner
Depression. The word is tossed around frequently, as if it's an illumination on a state of 'feeling down'. I've been guilty of that in the past as well, except that I didn't know, didn't want to face the reality of the truth, that it did apply to me. Depression is much more than a word; it's a debilitating condition that is woven into the very fabric of who we are.
Simplified, clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It's actually a quite complicated condition. If you look at scans of the brain you'll see a marked difference between a normal brain and one of someone who is clinically depressed. The symptoms of depression may subside from time to time, lessen a bit but the depression itself is always lurking in there, looking for the opportunity to turn your world upside down. Or, inside out, or any one of a dozen metaphors that people use to describe the murkiness of depression.
What does it feel like, you might ask? That's a hard question to answer since it's one of those things that without a frame of reference often doesn't make sense to someone who has never experienced it. What I can say is that I don't know for sure what it feels like not to have it. I don't really know what healthy feels like since in all likelihood I've been depressed my whole life. So many issues that I was aware of can be attributed to depression, although I've only come to understand that in the last few years. Depression can run in families and I think it is rampant in mine. Looking back, I now see that my mom was depressed, along with at least one of my aunts and a couple of cousins.
When I was first hospitalized with it I felt such intense shame; like I wasn't strong enough to just shake it. Many people think that; you should just be able to move past it. If you can do that, you probably do just have a case of 'the blues' or 'feel out of sorts'. If that is the case, you know that tomorrow is usually a better day. If it sticks with you, for days at a time, you aren't just 'blue', you're most likely depressed. And if you're like me, you've never really felt those 'great' days, so you don't realize how bad the 'blue' days are.
Yes, there have been times when I felt happy; usually only happy in the moment. It's an amazing high, but it never lasted and it never occurred to me that it was supposed to. I just thought feeling the way I did was the norm, that everyone felt like that but that some people were better at disguising it than others. It's certainly not something that I ever really talked about with anyone. Why bother? It was the status quo, my normal state of being. To talk about it would make me a whiner, a complainer, so I just kept my mouth shut. And that my friends is, in my opinion, the very thing that makes depression one of the most insidious of all conditions or illnesses: silence, fear of telling someone.
Depression kept me from so many things in my life and one of the most important ones may surprise many people: my inability to connect with people on a deep and loving level. I love my family, I love many friends, but when it came to real intimacy in a relationship, romantically speaking, it never happened. I use to laughingly say that I had a fear of commitment, which wasn't really a lie, just an incomplete statement. I didn't understand that it was depression driven of course, just that it was.
Yes, I write about love a good deal in my stories. Whether that is simply an observation of people around me or what my heart really desired, but didn't understand, I will never really know. I have idealized it, yearned for it, prayed for it and yet it has always eluded me. A couple of times I thought, yes, maybe this is it, but I now see that wasn't the case. I had too much healing to do at the time to really let myself experience it. Sad to say but there was always a wall between me and my desire to open myself to people.
One of my strongest indicators of depression was my inability to sleep. You always hear of depression making people sleep almost endlessly, but actually, insomnia is also a big tell. In fact, any unusual sleep patterns are a cause for concern. Since I was very young sleep has been elusive for me. In the past few years as depression took a deeper hold on me I would go literally for days without sleep. I could feel totally enervated and yet, sleep wouldn't come. That still happens a lot, insomnia is now my old friend.
So why am I telling you all this? Perhaps it's a bit of catharsis, finally baring my issue for all to read. It's a part of me and will not go away. It will get better and maybe someday I'll be mostly free of the symptoms of it. I want that; I want to not feel the need to crawl into a dark corner and stay hidden, to not feel the anxiety of panic that overtakes me at times. Again, that probably puzzles many of you because I can be very outgoing; it's just a face that I can hide behind and I did that often.
Still, I have hope, a huge bit of hope that things will change as I go further into my remission from depression. That I will no longer fear walking in the sunshine or even something so simple as driving around the city.
I have hope.
This is a list of indicators of depression. Read it over, pay attention, to yourself and those around you. There is treatment; life doesn't have to be like this.
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
- Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it's obvious something isn't right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.