Okay, this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people. I wish I could give you more professional background and understanding, but I don't have that. I can only give you my own personal experience. One thing about my experience with it is that even though I was (likely) moderately depressed for about 5 years, I was in denial about it and never sought professional help. Therefore, I have never been officially diagnosed with depression. I knew that I was feeling depressed due to the situations in my life (especially being single, and being alone when all my friends were getting married and having babies), but I thought it was situational depression. I didn't figure that professional help or medication would do anything for that, unless they could make my singleness stop! It's been a couple of years since I was truly depressed, but it's probably only in the last six months that I've gained enough perspective to state the obvious to myself: Situational depression does not last 5 years. I had depression.
I do not know if getting help would have made it so that I had less time being depressed, but I do know that it would have helped me understand a lot better what was going on and helped me have a lot better perspective sooner. I also think that it would have helped to keep the symptoms a lot more manageable. Anyway, like most of my posts, this is not some well researched thing, just me talking a little bit about my experience in hopes that it might help someone in the midst of depression know that they're not alone, or someone that has never been depressed might gain a little insight about what depressed people in their lives might be feeling. I also really liked this article. I can't speak to all of them, but I can tell you that the ones that applied to me were pretty dead on in the descriptions of it.
To me, depression is like living in the shadow. Your entire perspective is affected by it and enveloped in it. There is almost a tangible weight to it. So maybe it's like living in a shadow that happens to have increased gravitational pull? However it feels to each individual person, it seems that there is often almost a presence to it. The only thing is, while it colors every single thing about your life, you don't always realize that it's doing it. Sure I knew that some of the feelings of sadness and listlessness were due to depression, but I had no idea the way that it was lying to me and shading all of my experiences.
Depression is a big, fat liar. The number one lie that it has told to me and to at least a couple of other people that I've talked to, is that "You're worthless; you don't matter; you have a fundamental flaw". For me, that must be why I was still single. For one of my friends, that must be why her family and exes treated her the way they did. For others, that must be why they can't have a child, keep a job, etc. For some, it's why they still can't "pull it together" despite their life looking perfect on the outside. Depression tells us that it's us. And by the way, you are the only person that feels like that, because everyone else actually does have it together.
I felt isolated because clearly everyone else had a place in life, and I did not. I felt isolated because so much hurt. It was emotional pain that was triggered easily, and was crushing in its intensity, but it even led to a physical ache sometimes. Surely I was the only one that ever felt that way because everyone else was in a better situation. But then I isolated myself further. Sometimes I wouldn't want to reach out to other people to do things, because if they said no, it felt like a rejection of me (and why wouldn't they reject me? After all, who would want anything to do with me). Or being with people was difficult because I either had to put on the happy mask (the one where you feel like a freak because you don't know if your smile looks right because you are not feeling it at all) or because I was a misfit. Plus, certain types of social activities were almost a guarantee to trigger something.
Did I mention that it also lies about the fact that life is hopeless? It is, because in the day to day, there is no getting rid of this crazy pain. It is there every single day with every single thing that you do. There is no escaping it. And how can it ever get better? Because if there's something fundamentally wrong with me, then that lasts as long as I'm here.
Depression is a crazy ride, and you are along for the ride. You can't reason the feelings away. There can be all kinds of emotional swings. You can be semi fine one day, and in the depths of despair the next. Sometimes it's one second to the next. In the years that I dealt with this, I had times where it was hard to move through the day, and other times where it was something that I carried with me, but didn't notice it quite as much. I had times where things hurt really bad, and times that things were completely numb.
Anyway, if I could talk to myself then, or to someone going through depression now, what I would say is: You are not alone.
Actually, I was going to continue beyond that, but really, that's about what I would say. When I felt like I was drowning in plain sight and no one was reacting, I just needed to know that I wasn't alone. If someone had told me that I mattered, I may have intellectually agreed with them, but what I really would have felt is that they were so good that they even cared about the worthless people. However, by making sure that I knew I wasn't alone, that's what showed me that I mattered. Someone could have told me that it wouldn't be like this forever, but that's not something I could know or believe at that time.
And, thank God, I never was alone. I sometimes felt like I was alone, but I always knew the reality was that I had friends and family that I knew I could call at any time. I always had friends that I knew I could tell them about all of the ugly feelings and they wouldn't judge me or drop me as a friend. I also knew enough people that were willing enough to share their own pain that I knew I wasn't the only one going through it. I really think those are the things that helped keep me going.
I do not regret the things that I learned from going through depression. I do not regret the ways that it has changed me. The only thing that I would change is that I think it would have helped a lot to get help whether talk therapy or medication or both. I certainly don't ever want to go back there, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but good can come even from that.
For the most part, in the last couple of years, I have not been depressed. I have been sad at times, and angry and all of the other emotions that can be associated with depression, but they are normal and natural mood swings. I've had depressed moods at different times, but they've only lasted days or a couple of weeks at the most. Feeling the difference between those moods and how I felt before is part of the reason I finally acknowledged that I had been depressed.
Depression is something that is caused by biological factors. It is a chemical imbalance, but there are a lot of things that contribute to that. Situations definitely do, grief and trauma, and many other things. I wonder about inflammation contributing. When you are depressed, there is no way to reason your way out of it. There are things to help mitigate it, and ways to help manage in the midst of it, but it will only let go when it's good and ready to. I plan to do one more post on things that I've found that have helped me manage in the midst of depression, and things that help me now when I find those tendencies creeping up on me.