Saturday, October 18, 2014

How Would You Describe Depression?

I was contacted in September to contribute to an article for PsychCentral. The questions I was asked were “What did/does depression feel like for you? How would you describe it?” Margarita Tartakovsky, an editor at PsychCentral, put together a group of nine authors and bloggers who write about Depression to answer that question. I was thrilled to be included in such a project–not just so that I could contribute, but because I knew that people who suffer from Depression needed to know that they weren’t alone. With so many different voices describing a common condition, there was bound to be a perfect description in the collection for different people to relate to.

The article posted yesterday, and it’s terrific. I knew of no other participants besides Deborah Serani whose book I had recently reviewed. So I was pleased to see Therese Borchard in the list. I’ve blogged about her before. Her work on the necessity of faith to fight depression always fascinated me. Both ladies offered strong entries in the article. Their descriptions of Depression were heartbreaking.

I recommend that you visit the site and read the entries for yourselves. The other six participants also submitted strong entries. Descriptions like “being encased in a glass table”, a “daily feeling of sadness”, feeling like you “were a ghost in [your own] body” all may seem melodramatic, but that seems to be the norm when writers describe the condition. My entry wasn’t any less dramatic. I wrote a lot more than what was included, but I feel Margarita did an excellent job clipping my entry to its best minimum. With nine submissions, brevity was important.

I’m going to share my full answers with you here because you might find my answers helpful. I also ask you to answer the same questions in the comments section. I’d like to hear the different ways you experience this malady that we share:

What did/does depression feel like for you? How would you describe it?

Depression comes upon me in various tones and depths, and I often use mixed metaphors to try to describe it. Is it a tone? Is it a weight? Often it is simply an undertone of sadness that plays throughout my day, like a radio station signal that comes and goes. At the worst, Depression is a cacophony of low tones that throb and blare over everything in my life, like bass from the car next to you when you are stuck at a traffic light. During those times, I feel as if my chest is weighted down from within. Simple things like changing the channel on the TV seem incredibly exhausting, never mind getting up and moving. My heart feels burdened with sadness, and my sense of self-worth sinks. It is a bad time to make decisions, yet years ago—before I trained myself to act otherwise—many foolish decisions where made while I hated myself stuck there on the couch. Nowadays, I understand my depression better. I have learned to lighten its burden. The low notes of sadness still remain, but although I can’t reach out and change the station on the radio, I have become much better at tuning it out.

What’s the best description of depression that you’ve come across – whether in a book, blog or article?

I have read many great descriptions. Some artful; some practical. My most favorite description recently was in Deborah Serani’s book “Depression and Your Child”. Her section on changes in self-attitude was excellent. It put into words many things that I had tried to explain to my family over the years, but somehow never could. It always sounded like an excuse when I said it:

“Changes in Self-Attitude Depression greatly affects self-attitude and confidence. One of the most alarming aspects of depression is how it distorts thinking. Where positive thoughts once lived there are now negative and self-reproaching beliefs. For adults who have the advantage of having mature cognition, the corrosive effect of depression is extremely difficult to navigate. For the child who has yet to develop problem-solving skills, the dulled thinking that comes with depression is overwhelming, to say the least. Depression will impair a child’s judgment, making her feel worthless or unlovable, useless or stupid. She may be overly forgetful, pessimistic, and filled with self-blame. Self-esteem plummets, usually in quiet agony. It’s not uncommon for depressed children to make poor choices, feel hopeless, take risks, and deliberate suicide.”

Excerpt From: Serani, Deborah. Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

Anything else you’d like readers to know about depression?

Depression hurts, as the TV ads say, but as long as we remain victims, the pain will continue. Finding treatment through medications, psychiatric help, alternative therapies, or a mixture here and there is key to becoming happy again. How is that done? Take action. The hardest part when I feel depressed is taking action, yet when I muster the strength to implement my coping strategies, even in meager, infinitesimal ways, I begin to beat back Depression so that the pain subsides. I consider it a battle, but since I have lost so many years and life experiences to Depression, it is a battle I readily face over and over again. Get help. Surround yourself with supportive people. Load your days with activities that elevate your moods so that you can offset the chemical warfare going on inside your mind. Above all, this is a battle that you can win, so believe in yourself.