Posted by: jedwardswright | June 8, 2010

An Insider’s Guide to Depression

When does a bad case of “the blues” become something deeper than blue? What is the difference between being depressed and having depression? Do you have depression?

When it comes right down to it, only a medical doctor (preferably a psychiatrist) can diagnose Major Depressive Disorder. Many medical websites have done a great job of listing symptoms of depression, and there are links to some good sites way down at the bottom of this blog entry. Please do check them out.

What I want to share with you is what it feels like to have depression.

Anyone can be extremely sad because of circumstances around them. Losses of all kinds have a nasty way of kicking the crap out of all of us at one time or another. This is not depression, the medical condition. This is grief, which is a perfectly natural response to tough losing someone, or something, that we care about very much.

Depression feels as if you are living in a dark pit of despair, without a way of escape.  You fear the dragon you know is lurking in the darkness, waiting to leap. You can smell the sulfur of his smoking breath. You can feel the tortuous heat emanating from his jagged jaws. You almost wish that he would finish you off, so you wouldn’t have to endure this horrible existence.

Depression feels like you are wearing dark sunglasses constantly, so that you can’t see color or light or the expressions on people’s faces.  The view is dull grey and pitch black. Your past, your present, and your future appear lifeless and dismal. Even if you can remember a time when the world was bright and cheerful, you are now convinced that it was all an illusion – a big, fat cosmic lie.

Depression feels like wading in muck up to your thighs. Moving forward is so difficult. You are so exhausted all you want to do is give up and lay down, but you realize that would be the end of you, so you keep struggling to stay vertical. You wonder whether there is solid ground anywhere, because all you can see for miles is thick, black mud. You wonder if there is any point to trying any more.

Depression is like running a race in moon boots, the weighted ones the astronauts use to counter the moon’s weaker gravity. All the other runners are passing you, laughing because you are obviously  an extremely poor runner, who looks so clumsy it is comical  . Some of the stragglers may urge you on, but even they get disgusted eventually with your apparent lack of effort, and they push on ahead as well. You are so, with no hope of placing anywhere but last, that giving up seems the only reasonable thing to do.

Depression is your eyes leaking in public without being able to stop. It’s bawling your eyes out for no  reason,  wanting to stay in bed forever, and going through the motions without any real enjoyment. It’s wearing a mask so others can’t tell how wretched you truly are inside.

Of course, bad circumstances happen to PWDs too. The boss yells, the kids scream, and the check comes back marked “insufficient funds.” The difference is that PWDs feel completely unable to handle everyday problems and irritations, although most of the time they survive somehow. When disaster strikes,  PWDs fall completely apart.

As a result, PWDs are not always easy to be around. They are often labeled as drama queens or difficult employees or irresponsible homeowners. They have trouble hanging onto friends, and sometimes jobs as well. They drop out of school because the pressure was too much or stay at home because a party would be so stressful. Their self-esteem may be in the gutter, or they may have adopted a combative attitude in order to make it through the day. Still the one thing that is more miserable by far than being around them, is being them.

If any of this sounds familiar, you may be one of the millions of people who have depression. Yes, you are not alone, no matter how alone you feel!

Major Depressive Disorder, and its milder, chronic counterpart, dysthymia are both treatable medical conditions.  Neither are the result of an attitude problem or a lack of effort or a character deficit.

Your next move should be to call your doctor for an appointment.  Take notes on your feelings and other symptoms with you, because you are liable to be nervous, and it means you won’t miss saying something important. Be completely honest and open. Believe me, there is nothing you can tell the doctor that he or she hasn’t heard many, many times before.

One more thing. You are NOT crazy – that term needs to be delegated to the trash barrel of derogatory terms like retarded, mongoloid, and half-wit. You are not losing your mind. If you do have depression, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, and there is nothing shameful or offensive about that.

Here are the excellent links that I promised you.

Mayo Clinic Depression Self-Assessment

Mayo Clinic on depression (Major Depressive Disorder)

 Mayo Clinic on dysthymia

WebMD on depression

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on depression

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Responses

  1. Check out the picture book called You’ve Got Dragons, published by Peachtree Press in Atlanta. Your comment in this piece about dragons reminded me of it. It doesn’t deal directly with depression, but with the fears lurking around the corners that all of us have.

    • Dear CarolJean,
      Although I currently am dragon-free, I will put You’ve Got Dragons on my reading list!
      Thanks,
      Jodi


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