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.
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?