And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Wish They Could Understand

Last night at work, I had a conversation with a staff member at work that bothered me a bit. Not because of the staff or what they said, but because it cause me to remember my darkest days. Just remembering brought so much back, and so much frustration at the years I lost to misery.

We somehow got on the subject of depression, and this person is of the group who don't really believe that medication for depression is appropriate. I can't even really blame this person for feeling the way they do. I think there are a lot of folks out there who think that a negative attitude and unwillingness to TRY to see the good things in life are the makings of depression. I have seen folks who are just selfish and want attention use depression as an excuse.

It's frustrating.

The thing is, it's nearly impossible to understand what real clinical depression is like if you have never experienced it.

And I so desperately want people to understand that it is not a lack of willpower or effort on my part that has caused my depression.

Before I was diagnosed, my life was hell. Literally. I knew about depression, but never once figured that it could apply to me and my life. I just figured that I wasn't understanding some basic life strategy that allowed the average human to wake up and feel that life was worth living. I tried everything. I changed my diet, I meditated, I used positive affirmations, I kept busy helping others so I couldn't focus on myself so much. Anything and everything that promised to give energy or balance emotions, I tried.

Nothing worked. Oh, some things helped a little. Some things helped a little more. But nothing got rid of the heaviness that weighed on me every waking moment of my life. Nothing cleared the fog that surrounded me and interfered with the way I saw and heard the things around me. I survived every day with willpower alone. There was no joy that touched me deep inside, no fun that could overcome the basic sense I had that life was one endless exercise in futility. The emotional pain was so intense that it manifested itself physically with chest and stomach pain. Sometimes I would think that if I could just cut out the parts of me that hurt, then life would be better.

Then, when things were really low for me, a doc put me on some meds. The worked a little. Then we changed the meds, and that worked a little better. We kept adjusting things until, one day, I looked up from my usual daily activities and realised that even though I had many worries and my life was in a troublesome place I had confidence that I would survive. I knew, deep down, that I would make it through the next day.

I hadn't been really sure of that for so long that I couldn't remember feeling any other way.

I think that is another misconception folks have about depression. Meds don't make everything all better. I still did therapy for quite a while to develop skills that would help me to cope with the daily difficulties that came up. I still feel sadness, grief, fear, disappointment....everything. It's just that now I can feel happiness, peace, contentment, and excitement as well.

Meds don't make you happy, they take away the wall that is blocking you from feeling your true feelings. Depression is a false sense of misery that invades every breath you take and every experience you have. The bottom line is, though, that it is a FALSE feeling. It is not based on anything real. It is just a feeling that, no matter how hard you pray, meditate, or think positively, will not go away.

Gosh, that still doesn't make sense. I so DESPERATELY want to be able to articulate what depression is so that folks who have never felt it could understand. I suppose it is a lot like Motherhood. I remember mothers telling me that there is no way to explain the love a mom feels for her child, and that I would just have to experience it for myself. I thought they were nuts until I had a child. Then I knew that there truly IS no way to convey the feeling of all-encompassing love that comes from having a child.

I suppose mothers might be able to understand depression, then. Remember that overwhelming love you feel for your children. You know the one, the one that sweeps through you and makes your heart feel as if it is going to just burst right through your chest because the love you feel is so big that it is unimaginable that it could be contained by one human. Now imagine that feeling has turned to sadness, fear, hopelessness, and helplessness. It influences every action you take in the same way that loving your children affects everything you do. And it never goes away.

I don't know. Maybe the next thing I will have to work on is getting over my need to have folks believe that I am not some med-seeking attention hound regarding my depression. Or maybe I should write a book, explaining it to folks so they CAN understand.

Whadda YOU think?


Lisa said...

I think that there are a lot of people who will never "get it." Post-partum depression, clinical depression, etc. If you've never experienced it yourself, you have no clue how it feels, or what you can't feel.

I have done both of the above types, but luckily I had a very supportive husband who didn't discount it just because he didn't feel it.

His mother got so bad, that we had to check her into the hospital for in-patient care to get it squared away. Even she didn't realize how bad she felt until she stopped feeling "that" bad.

I guess I wished that people who have no experience with it would at least reserve judgement about it (Are you listening, Tom Cruise?!?)

There, I've said my piece. Write a book if you like, but "them that don't get it," still won't believe it.

Mon said...

It doesn't matter that people don't get it. I mean it ought not to matter to the depressed perso. UNLESS you need their help and support.

There are a million things in this world not understood. It's too energy-zapping to force others to understand.

As for your explanation, it was just great.

barefoot gardener said...


I know you both are right. I just need to let go of this desire to have folks understand and accept what depression really is...

Oh, and Lisa...
I think that comment about your MIL not knowing how bad she felt until she didn't feel it anymore is the most PERFECT thing. I went through that exact feeling! When I started feeling better, I looked back at how I HAD felt and honestly wondered how in the world I had been so stupid as to live like that for so long. I was shocked that I had survived it. I was just...astonished.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the fortunate folks who has never personally experienced clinical depression. But my adult daughter has and I've always wished for an inkling of understanding of what it must be like for her. Thanks to your words I think I now have an idea of what she went through for so long. Thank you, BG, for your honesty and openness. I wish you all the best.

Kati said...

You make sense, BG!!!! And quite honestly, it's your bit toward the bottom of the love that a mother feels toward her off-spring that really rings true for me, because my offspring has been the source of my greatest outpouring of love, and quite frequently these days, the cause of my greatest outpouring of grief and depressive feelings. I had mini-jags of depression as a teen, and in the last 12 years since, but it's been the last year it's been a constant back and forth between my "usual" optimistic "look on the bright side" self, and the self that just wants to curl up in a snow-bank and let the cold and snow sooth all the pain away forever. Unfortunately, even the books that have been my "safe place" in the past aren't so "safe" these days, because escaping into them for the duration of the painful times isn't so easily done now, when I must take care of a family and house, as it was when I was a teenager.

I hope and pray that for you and those we know who deal with chronic depression, a "cure" or at least an "aid" is found to help you get through it.