on depression

January 31st, 2008 by amy

depressed brain and non depressed brain

Yesterday someone I like and admire very much asked me about depression. I had just admitted to him directly, I think for the first time, that I’m a depressive. He’s seen me sad before and he asked me how bad it gets and I said: “very bad”. We talked a bit but I don’t know that I described things well. I’ve recently read people talking very movingly about their own experiences. Since it’s such a big part of my life I’ve thought for a while about how I might speak about it, and if I did, what I might say. Below is a start.

I probably tend not to speak about it much at all if I’m depressed. It’s like a secret about which I’m rather ashamed (though I doubt it’s actually much of a secret to those around me), a recurring reminder to myself that there is something very wrong with me and the way my brain chemistry or synapses work or whatever destructive, insidious little poison periodically gets released in my head. I think it’s part of who I am and looking back I can see clearly that I was depressed at times throughout my life and even as a kid.

I can be ok for weeks or months but always I know that at any time there’s a possibility that depression will come again, surround me like a black cloud, suffocate me, bring me low. Counted cumulatively, I’ve lost years of my life to depression. Part of what makes things difficult when I am depressed is the feeling that no one would really want to deal with me when I’m down, that I don’t want to bother others, that I don’t want to speak about it to others, that I don’t want to speak at all. So I shut myself off, hide away, stop returning phone calls, don’t reply to mail. I batten down the hatches and just try to weather the storm. If you’re a friend of mine and I have done that to you before or am doing it now – I’m sorry, I’m doing the best I can. I remember a close, caring friend who does understand depression once saying that anyone who gets close to me knows that I’m sad (as part of a conversation she and I were having about letting people see who I really am, good and bad, happy and sad and hoping that I’m accepted for it, which unfortunately isn’t always the case).

Often when in a conversation about what depression is with people who haven’t gone through it, I seem to end up speaking about what it’s not. It’s not being down based necessarily on something that has happened, something situational (though sometimes situational things can spark it). It’s not feeling sad (nor is it melancholy). It is different than grief. It’s life stripped of all color and, for me at least, all sensation except for a sort of nausea and a nagging, aching pain. It’s a kind of inability to connect, to relate, to find joy in things one might normally like. At its worst, it’s a complete, crushing lack of hope. I’ve thought that depression feels like being at the bottom of the ocean, crushed by the water, barely able to move, surrounded by silence and darkness, looking up to the surface and feeling very far away. I think most people who aren’t depressive just don’t understand it and well, good for you! if so. What I don’t like hearing from people who haven’t gone through it is that I should try to be stronger (like them, I guess), that I should just “cheer up” or “get over it”, that I think too much, that I should just focus on the positive, that I should try harder, etc.

Fortunately, I guess, I’ve been through depressions enough times to see that one can get through them, that there are things I can do to lessen the impact, that they do end – the trick is to hold on (sometimes just barely, but to hold on) and to just do the best one can. The right medication can help, exercise can help, cognitive therapy can help. Other people can be supportive, (the man I mentioned in the first sentence above can always seem to make me smile even in a bad depression, other friends can make me laugh with a little gallows humor), but I don’t think anyone else can really help you when you’re very far down. It’s occurred to me in the past that if the me now could go back and talk to the younger me going through whatever problems, griefs, mistakes, depressions, etc were happening, the one bit of advice I’d give is just: “It will be ok. It will all be ok.”

What I’m saying to myself now is: it will be ok.

Add on:
I felt kind of stupid and did delete the entry for a bit. Ashamed, I guess, as I mentioned above. Not ok, maybe. Then later, I figured, who is going to read it really? It’s pretty much just me talking to myself here and what does it matter? Maybe it’s good sometimes to fess up, to admit being a complete mess. Plus, I like the picture – it helps me understand in a different way. As to what I wrote, well, it’s crap, yes, but maybe later it would be good for me to come back and read at another time, to see if I see things any differently when a bit more above the surface of the water. Anyway, it’s back.

One Response to “on depression”

  1. amy Says:

    thank you dearest. hugs and kisses back from here.

    Also, see: http://xkcd.com/379/ from today. I just love this guy.

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