You’re all used to my periodic absences around here. I don’t post on a daily basis. I write when I have a rant, or when I feel something needs awareness. Sometimes I go on hiatus when I have nothing good to say. It’s at these times I find myself in The Abyss.
Today, my topic is depression.
Before I begin, let me clarify that I am in no way a specialist in this field. The only training I have in this area is about a year of Psychology (not even an Associates Degree), which basically means I’m armed with enough knowledge to be dangerous. I can “armchair” all day, but if you relate to this post and think you need help, please contact a professional.
Whether you are clinically or chemically depressed, your symptoms will be similar. You may feel isolated, but at the same time you’re withdrawing from everyone. This can cause you to question everything you do and send you into a spiral of self-doubt, increasing your anxiety levels. Yes, anxiety goes hand-in-hand with depression.
So, what are the common symptoms of depression?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) listed them on their website (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml) . I’ve included them in my post, but their list only touches the surface. They don’t go into these symptoms. One can be sad over any number of things and not be depressed. One can be irritable because one is just having a bad day. For this reason, I’ve decided to go into a little more detail on this list. You’ll find my comments indented below each symptom:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
This is an unclear definition. It seems to be more of a cycle.
You feel sad, but not the kind of sad like when Sirius Black died in Harry Potter. This is more of a deep, dark, can’t-shake-it-off sad. It’s the sad you get when you feel yourself spiral into the abyss of sadness. You find yourself fetal on the bathroom floor in a crying jag and you have no idea why. You’ve just lost your “happy”.
Anxiety, surprisingly enough, comes with this flood of sadness (as if the abyss of depression wasn’t enough). In your depression, you feel alone. Your self-confidence fails and your self-worth slips away. You start to pull away from your friends at a time you need them most, usually because you either a) don’t want to burden them with your problems, or b) don’t want them to see this side of you. But after you’ve pulled away (whether you’ve realized it or not), you find your friends aren’t around. But with your friends not around, you wonder why they aren’t there for you. It gnaws at your mind every day, and you start to get anxious about your relationships. You wonder if they’ll be there for you if you ever get out of this pit. You wonder if it’s too late to talk to anyone. You wonder how you can talk to anyone when you’ve gone so long without talking. You wonder how long you can keep up the façade that “everything is ok” in front of your friends when you know damn good and well it isn’t. You wonder who sees through your façade.
You finally just feel numb, or, “empty”, when you can’t hold up the façade anymore. By this point you just can’t bring yourself to leave the house. Agoraphobia may have set in at this point. If not, the urge may be there and it’s hard to fight.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
At first, I thought they hit this nail on the head, but really this doesn’t touch the surface. You’re in this abyss of depression and you don’t see a way out. Ever. It seems to go on and the only light at the end of the tunnel is probably an oncoming train. You want this cycle to end, but you really don’t know how to stop it. After a while, you just resign yourself to the fact that you’re stuck feeling this way.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
You may find yourself apologizing for everything. If you do express your thoughts to someone, they start worrying about you and you feel guilty about giving them something to worry about. This ties into the feelings of worthlessness.
Let’s say you’re in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and a young child is quietly playing with her educational toy. She’s well behaved and, for her age, she’s really not a noisy child. The volume on her toy is at a reasonable volume. No one else in the waiting room seems to notice. You, on the other hand, have found the toy has located your last nerve, has turned into two pieces of sandpaper, and has decided to rub back and forth because the child JUST WON’T STOP!!! You glare at her mother as if to say, “How dare you raise your child to play quietly in a waiting room. Can’t you control your child?” You sigh, impatiently, and go back to your book, pretend to read, but you really can’t focus because you are so irritated by everything distracting you.
- Loss of interest in activities, including sex
I can only speak from a woman’s point of view on this one. When it comes to sex, one has to be happy in order to be in the mood. If one has a lot on one’s mind, it puts a damper on things. Well, perhaps “damper” wasn’t the right choice of words, because there’s nothing moist or damp when a woman isn’t in the mood. And, really, when all you want to do is curl up in a fetal position and cry, that’s kind of a mood killer for everyone involved.
- Fatigue, decrease in energy
An overall feeling of “I just can’t do it today,” or “I just don’t want to.” I see this as more of a lack of motivation.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
Honestly, I’m not sure if this is because you have so much going on in your head it’s distracting you from everything else, or if it’s a subconscious desire to just push everything away because you can’t take One. More. Thing. You know – when you want to put a wall up and shut out the world, so you drag out the “mental eraser”? In either case, I think Difficulty Making Decisions stems from the latter. You’re under so much stress and anxiety you just want to push it away; put it off until later or delegate it to someone else. You worry you’ll make the wrong decision, and you worry about the implications of that wrong decision.
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
Not much to say on this one. Either your anxiety keeps you from sleeping or you sleep all the time in order to escape your problems. This one is fairly self-explanatory.
- Overeating, or appetite loss
Depression will affect your urge to eat, and will affect what you eat (or don’t eat, as the case may be). You may be hungry, go to the fridge or pantry, and just look at food and say, “I just can’t,” because you lack the motivation to do anything about it (see fatigue/decrease in energy). Or, you may be “stuffing” your emotions, and turning to food for comfort. NIMH doesn’t note that this behavior also applies to alcohol, drugs, smoking, computers, or any other addictive behavior.
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
True; especially the digestive problems. You’ll find yourself going through antacids like candy. Depression and anxiety eventually take a toll on your body because you are in a constant state of fight-or-flight response. Your adrenal glands can only take so much. Your heart rate is elevated, and let’s not forget about those stomach acids.
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
They don’t include thoughts of harming yourself. This has nothing to do with wanting to kill yourself. The pain inside is just so great you just can’t hold it inside anymore. It comes out in addictive behavior, putting your fist through a wall, or, in some cases, cutting yourself. Regardless of your thoughts, just remember, this is not a way out. Harming yourself a temporary solution. It’s a diversion, or an escape from your issue(s). Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. “The only way out is through.” – Robert Frost
One in ten adults in the United States suffer from depression, but that number may not be accurate. There may be more unreported cases out there, as an estimated 80% of the population experience symptoms and go untreated because there is still a stigma in our society around depression and anxiety. We see it as a weakness, not an illness.
Again, this is just my .02, FWIW. I’m no professional. If you are depressed, or if you think you are depressed, get help – before you go spiraling into the abyss. Trust me, there is a bottom and the trip up isn’t easy.