I have had depression since childhood. (I say “have had” because I absolutely cannot tolerate it when someone uses the term “suffers from depression”. I mean honestly, when someone has heart disease no one says “she suffers from heart disease.”) Only in those days, no one understood childhood depression. After my father died when I was 10 I was sent to therapy. However, I still didn’t “behave correctly”. Some people told my mother that I was spoiled and needed my “butt whipped”. They said this within ear shot of me. As a teenager and an adult I had people tell me things like: “It’s not that big of a deal”. “Just get up and get outside”. “It will pass”. And my all-time favorite: “Why can’t you just snap out of it?”
The reality is that all of these people meant well in their own way. People naturally want to “fix it.” When they can’t they get frustrated. It’s human nature not cruelty.
The recent suicide of Robin Williams has brought a lot of attention to depression. The Mayo Clinic’s definition for depression:
“Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of.”
In other words: when you are experiencing depression you are not your true self. Life has no meaning.
In my experience:
1) Depression is a dark, all consuming hole of pain and emptiness that crushes your soul. It feels like you are trapped and nothing will ever set you free. Nothing that any or your loved ones say or do can make it better and this makes you feel incredibly guilty. This guilt causes you to worry. The worry causes you to feel anxious. It runs around and round in your head until it’s all you can think about. It is the worst sadness. It breaks your heart.
2) Depression runs in cycles. I once went an entire year without any depressive symptoms when I was un-treated.
3) Depression makes you secretive. Honestly, who wants to confess to the people in their life that they have given up all hope and want to die?
4) Depression hurts. Literally. For me, when my depression was untreated I had body aches, headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and fatigue.
Depression is a tricky mistress. She seduces you into believing that you are all alone. Yet, when you consider reaching out she isolates you by telling you no one understands.
I wish I had a magic answer or explanation as to why some of us survive and others don’t. What I do know is that having depression does not make me weak and getting treatment is the best thing that I ever did. I have had very successful treatment for my depression for about four years now. I see a doctor of