Things have gotten pretty political around here lately, and I know that doesn’t interest everyone, so we’ll put that on hold for a while for your sake, and frankly, for mine. I just can’t take it for too long. I just find myself getting worked up over it all, and I need to take a break, to step away for a bit.
In that vein, I’ve decided it’s time to talk about something a great many people don’t understand. Depression is a very real medical and psychological condition, which isn’t solved by “a little more Jesus,” or “Just get over it,” or “He really should just grow up.” I have heard each of these responses to the topic of depression, and how it’s not real, it’s “just in your head,” and if you were stronger it wouldn’t be a problem.
I think a lot of the ignorant comments surrounding this disease comes from, well, ignorance for one, but it’s a very difficult thing to understand when you don’t know how it feels. I will attempt to dispel the fog surrounding how it feels to be depressed. Understand that how /I/ experience depression may be very different than someone else, but generally, many of the hallmarks are universal. This post is one I have tried to write a number of times, but have never quite been able to come up with the words, but after a particularly tough morning, I sent what follows to a friend, and for the first time, I felt like I had a decent glimpse of what it feels like:
Some days everything just goes wrong all at once and it feels like everything you have is just slipping away into nothingness, and you’ll be left standing there staring into the void wondering what you did to deserve this, what you could have done differently to avoid it. But then you realize that it doesn’t matter anyways, because it’s all gone and there’s no getting it back, no recovery, there’s only you and you have two choices: pick up and move on or stay put and let the void consume you, and you wonder if there’s even a difference.
Imagine you’ve gone to a soothsayer, who has a penchant for never being wrong, and she tells you that “Tomorrow, your world will end. You will not go to heaven, you will not go to hell. You will cease to exist, and everything about you will be forgotten forever. You will leave no legacy, you will simply never have existed.” The opportunists in the crowd will take this advice as carte blanche to have a ball. But really think about it. Look around you at everyone you love, everything you’ve done. All the lives you have touched, and all the lives who have touched you. Nothing. NOTHING will remain. Your life and all the hard work you’ve put in amount to nothing. And nothing meant anything. Why did you even bother?
Pretty depressing, huh? Now imagine waking up with that feeling every morning. Imagine taking a shower, brushing your teeth, doing any of the hundreds of mundane little things you have to do just to get ready to, what, go to work? And what for? Does it matter? Will it ever?
It’s those thoughts that fester in the mind, that gnaw and eat their way through any barriers of thought and reason. They form an impenetrable downward spiral, neigh impossible to stop, even when you know it’s happening. Fear leads to doubt, leads to anxiety, leads to self-doubt, leads to loathing, leads to nothing. All roads lead to Nothingness.
These are feelings that I have lived with since I was about 9 years old. It started off with my just not feeling quite right. I remember not really feeling like all the other kids /looked/ like they felt. So I started to fake it. I kept it to myself because I didn’t understand it, and it was easy enough to keep up the act, but when I got to high school, I began to wear thin. I spoke with a mentor about everything, and started seeing a counselor. I didn’t like him, and quit going. I also got on medication, which I took for a while and quit. That song and dance was repeated often. I’ve been through more medications than I can remember, and I’ve seen a handful of counselors, most of whom I ended up quitting, disappointed in their inattention and silly games. I have continued to quit the medications cold-turkey when I get on them.
It has been a long process, and I have not been the best patient, but I will, this coming week, be visiting the doctor to get back on the medication. It’s occurred to me that maybe I need to get this depression in check, because there are too many people who it affects. My ability to keep up the act 24/7 has waned, and I’m beginning to lash out and hurt people around me. So it’s time to swallow my pride, and get the help I need.
But as for depression itself, some people are depressed because of some major life event they can’t get a handle on. Some people are depressed because of neurochemical imbalance. Some people are depressed for, well, the list goes on and on.
There’s good news, though. Our good friend Science has given us a plethora of anti-depressant medications which fiddle with your brain bits and help you feel normal again. There are counselors, and therapists, and pastors, and gurus, and friends, and chocolate. It’s not the same for everyone, but it’s no less insidious, and it can cause some very real life-altering problems.
So let’s talk. Do you know someone who is clinically depressed? Are you? How do they deal with it? How do you? Do you have any questions about depression? If so, please ask, and I’ll do my best to answer them. So let’s talk. Let’s all gain a little understanding.