Thursday, January 21, 2010


Warning:  kind of heavy psychological topic.

I have wanted to write about depression for a long time.  Long before I had a blog.  But it's a very difficult thing to do for many reasons.  When I feel good, it's tough to remember exactly what I felt like when I was depressed.  When I am depressed, I can't write.  Or my thoughts are so dark that I don't dare write about them.  Plus, people don't really want to hear about it.  People want blogs to be upbeat, happy, funny, whatever.  Not depressing.

But I am going to try today, on my way out of a depression.  Maybe I can do it justice.

I have been diagnosed with chronic major depression, among other things.  I am not talking about having a bad day or a bad week.  I am not talking about being depressed about failing at school or breaking up with someone.  I am talking about a kind of darkness that comes from nowhere and pins your soul to the floor and won't let you up.  Crying uncle doesn't help.  Turning purple doesn't help.  You can die several times over and still not find pity in the eyes that stare you down.  Depression has no soul.  So it takes yours.

J.K. Rowling has said that the dementors in her stories are a representation of the depression she suffered.  When I heard that, I thought it was an apt symbol.  They are soul suckers.  Everything gets dark.  You feel like you'll never be happy again.  You crumble to the ground and can do almost nothing to defend yourself.

You may be surprised to know that depression can be comfortable.  I can wrap up in it like a warm blanket, unwilling to let it go.  Think of all the movies that show someone falling asleep in the snow.  They will die if they don't move, but they don't care.  The people around them are worried, but they don't care.  They just want to curl up and sleep.  "Leave me alone and let me sleep."  It's like that.

It's very difficult to care about anyone or anything else.  The darkness is so strong.

Why would I shower?  I'm so tired and it's so much work.  I'm not going anywhere.  Just leave me alone and let me sleep.

Why would I eat?  I'm not hungry and nothing sounds good and it's so much work.  Leave me alone.

Why would I get together with friends?  I'm so tired and irritable.  I'd be no fun to be around and it's so much work.  Leave me alone.

And it's impossible to describe the exhaustion to the point that you can understand if you haven't felt it.  Imagine wearing a big, heavy wool coat that is soaking wet.  And going three days without sleep.  Now try to get anything done.  Try to function.  And try to explain to the people around you that you are dying even though they don't see it.  It's like that.

Sometimes you wish someone would notice and try to make it better.  Then they do and it's so much worse.  Everyone who hasn't experienced it thinks they know how to make it go away.  They will tell you things that just make you stare at them with incredulation.  The things they are telling you are impossible for you to do.  It's like they are asking you to fly.  It seems that impossible.

And you know you are making people around you worry.  You know you are hurting relationships.  And it just makes you feel worse.  You are bleeding to death and yet you are supposed to worry about them?

It doesn't feel like there will be a tomorrow.  And if there is, you know it will be miserable like today.  Why put forth any effort?

And if you haven't had it, you don't get it.  I don't care how much you've studied it or observed it or lived with someone who struggles.  If you haven't had it, you don't get it.  It's like never having been pregnant and telling a new mother that you know what she went through.  You've never felt a living being moving inside you, knowing that their entire future is up to you.  You've never had your body taken over by a process that is so mundane and so miraculous at the same time.  You've never suffered the pain of childbirth.  You don't know.  It's like that.

And while none of the options I've tried have been able to make this go away permanantly, it lets up.  And I've learned a lot.  I'm not giving up.  I have hope.  At least today I do.

I am not looking for pity or understanding.  This is a meager attempt on my part to teach about something I know.  While I can.


Jessica Grosland said...

I actually think you described it rather well. I'll probably be quoting you in the future, if you don't mind.

I'm glad you finally said something about it. Depression is extra hard because we clutch it to ourselves and don't want anyone to know about it because inevitably someone will tell you it's all in your head and "why don't you just change your attitude?"

Well, you won't get that response from me. I'm sorry you're lost. I miss you when you're gone. And I'll be waiting at the other end of the cavern for you to come out of the darkness on your own terms.


I LOVE WHAT JESS SAID......THE LAST PARAGRAPH.......SOOOOOOOOOO amazing. That should be anyone's desire and intent Who is helping someone with depression.

Kazzy said...

The soaking wet wool coat did it for me. Sounds so heavy and difficult.

I am sure there are a whole lot of studies/articles on caring about someone with depression. Like you mention here, someone helps and then it gets worse. But you are "bleeding to death", so how can care about anyone else?

I can not imagine. I can not help. I can not offer comfort. But I can not totally forget about the sufferer either.

Robin said...

@ Karen: I've been on the other side as well. Watching and helpless. I think watching those we care about in pain and knowing we can't do anything is one of the toughest parts of being mortal.

Thanks for your thoughts.

MaggieJo said...

I've been wondering if I suffer from depression for a long time now, not that long, I'm not that old. But I often feel that way, not to that degree though. Chad tells me to choose happiness and it is like him telling me to just fly. I find myself asking myself if I'm just retarded or is something really wrong?

Just Another Person said...

so much of what you wrote here is so true and I feel really similar to this sometimes. You are a good writer. I wish I can write like this.

depression is so confusing to me, and seeing it described in word was a nice thing for me.


Day said...

Sometimes I wonder how many people's lives could be made better if they had social support networks that didn't demand them to be better already. Good post. And good blog.

A.Marie said...

All I can say is WOW! I have never read an article that described depression so accurately. I also suffer from chronic major depression but with the proper medicine and treatment, I am much better. I love my psych doctor; she is incredible!!

Sherri said...

thank you for this. i sit here and cry. and i can't stop. i know it will get better, go away. i think it will. it has before. but the grip is too tight right now. all i can do is cry. for absolutely no reason. thank you for this. if it's okay with you, i would love to share this with some of my family. help them maybe understand. bless them - they try so hard to say or do the right thing. but there is no right thing. i'm giving it to God today, and tomorrow, and the next day. i'm in this place for a reason. and it may not be for me to know why.

Amy @ Journey Mum said...

It's so interesting to read that someone else has had the same experience as me. So well put. I hope you're in a good place these days, but I know how it is.

Anonymous said...

that's a great description of depression~ falling asleep in the snow, being wrapped up in it like a comfortable blanket.

i'm stopping by from SITs. I like your blog and am enjoying the posts!

Melanie said...

What a great read. You're right depression has no soul, so it takes yours. I have depression and right now I'm in the upswing so it doesn't seem so bad, but inside I know it gets dark and deep dark quite quick. Thank you for your honesty.

Stopping by from SITS, happy SITS day!

Anonymous said...

I'd never heard the JK Rowling description, but you are right. It's apt.

I'm a PPD sufferer, and I found myself nodding my head over and over as I read this. To add to the snow analogy, the other thing you sometimes see in the movies is that the people sometimes think of that one thing that keeps them going. None of the circumstances or the crappiness or whatever else changes, but that one thing keeps them from laying down and simply going to sleep forever. I think that's what I have in my son now.

Anyway, stopping by from SITS, so happy SITS day, and thanks for putting your thoughts into writing.

Teresa (Embracing the Spectrum) said...

I know exactly how this feels. I go through this ALL.THE.TIME.

And I'm stopping by from SITS, so Happy SITS day. I hope it's a good one for you!

Sarah Bee said...

Depression has no soul so it takes yours.

So true.

I too struggle with depression and in reading your post it made me feel less alone...I have a post about depression scheduled for Monday to post and yours I think might just blow mine out of the water.

So glad you shared :)

Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier said...

Visiting from SITS and I love this post.

The phrase "I'm depressed" is used way to loosely - sort of like when people describe a headache as a migraine - which I used to do, until I got a real migraine that dropped me to my knees.

Your description was so apt and really clear. Thank you for sharing!

Nathanjgb said...

Wow. My wife take medication for depression and it has never made sense to me how to explain it. I have had my doubts on her describing it before as well. Thank you for stepping out of the muck and mire to be a source of hope and attempted understanding. Very helpful indeed.

Tammy said...

First off, happy SITS day to you. I had to come and read this post first because I am just coming out of one of my depressive states. You have described how I feel to a "t". No does understands what you are going through. I also have anxiety...compounded with depression, it's not fun. Thankfully every day is not a down day. But when it rears it's ugly head it is with me for at least a week before it lets up again. It's an ugly hold I wish I didn't have to deal with.

Thanks for sharing this! I needed it!

Anonymous said...

Happy SITS day! LOVE your header and the "realness" of your posts :) Thank you for sharing!

Vicki @ Grams Made It said...

Thanks for such a great explanation. I have a sister-in-law, whom I love dearly, who is pretty much lost to depression. She rarely comes out of her darkness now. It's so hard to watch and I feel so helpless.

The Lovely One said...

A wonderful description to help people understand what you're going through. I've seen my mother go through depression, spending the entire day in bed, and I thought, "why doesn't she just get up?" I'll never really understand, Thanks for helping me try.


Thank you, for taking the time to describe (so beautifully) your experience with depression. What a help this will be to those of us that love someone who is depressed.


The Lucky Wife said...

Thank you for sharing this depiction. It's helpful to have a glance at what depression is like for those who struggle with it. I'm sorry you have had to deal with that... it's almost unimaginable for me, although, I have dealt with attacks of fear that made me feel similar to how you describe the depression in some ways.

I hope your SITS day was wonderful. (Although I am a little late commenting).

Maureen | Tatter Scoops said...

Thank you for your bravery to put this out and educate others. I'm sorry for your struggle and I hope by sharing this you can inspire and help others too. I had a PPD but didn't know what it was all about and it went undiagnosed, it may be nothing compare to what you went through but I can relate at some points.

Congrats on your SITS day!

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

You have described depression very well. I always try to tell myself, from wherever I am in it's depths, "it will get better sooner or later you just have to hang on." So far, it has worked for me. I'm glad your blog helps you to stay positive - mine is a place I go to stay positive. It really does help for the most part. But when depression hits, writing goes out the window. I understand your dilemma.

Congratulations on your SITS feature, you've done a great job with your blog.

Blessings said...

My sister has suffered from extreme depression all of her life, and from what I'm able to understand from her, your post seems to be a perfect description of the illness. However, you are very lucky to have times when you are well. At least well enough to have a marriage of 21 years and 5 children.

My sister is 36 years-old, her looks are fine and she's very intelligent, but she has never been out on a date. She can only work part-time, she lives at home with my mother and has to be in the same room with her in order to sleep. She has one acquaintance outside of family.

I'm not saying this to trivialize your pain, just congratulating you on being able to have a life, while struggling to control depression.

Thanks for sharing. Happy SITS day.

Anonymous said...

Wow that's an amazing explanation of something I'm unable to explain to anyone unless they've gone through what I have been through. What really hit home was the fact that you know you're hurting those around you, but you can't help it and it makes you feel worse. I've been there done that and it was something I never want to do again. However, it continues to happen and sometimes it's hard to pick yourself back up again after you've hit rock bottom. You are so low you don't know where to turn. I hate that feeling and I wish it was something I could get rid of. It's always nice to know that people out there struggle with depression. I know some people avoid "heavy" topics, but I think it's inspiring to write about my own experiences and get another person's perspective. Happy SITS day.