I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet but I have major clinical depression. It’s a condition I’ve been dealing with since I was eight years old and it will likely affect me for the rest of my life. After five years of sharing my life with you, it seems like a good time to open up about this.
Understanding Depression – Not Something You Can Just “Get Over”
If you’re not familiar with clinical depression, it’s not a matter of feeling a “little down” every so often or something you can just “get out of.” Though the effects may go unseen outwardly, it’s an actual medical illness that can require professional assistance in managing. Unless you have experienced it or are close to someone who deals with it on an ongoing basis, understanding depression can be very difficult. It skews one’s entire way of thinking and can be debilitating in every aspect of everyday life.
Though I experienced symptoms of depression since I was a young child, it was not until I was about 19 years old that I was actually diagnosed. I’ve been through years of counseling, herbs, medication changes, lifestyle changes, improvement in diet and exercise, etc. Yet, I continue to struggle with the mental, emotional, and physical effects every day.
Now, it’s important to know that depression affects everyone differently. So, though I have quite a bit of knowledge regarding depression, it is based solely on my own experience. For me, my stamina is greatly affected. That is why I cannot work outside of the home. You might be surprised to hear this when my online feed is full of photos from traveling, press events, and family activities. What you don’t see is me being stuck in bed for the next 3-5 days, in and out of sleep and internalizing overwhelming stress.
Understanding Depression – Unintentional Altered Way of Thinking
I constantly deal with feelings of worthlessness. Is someone not having a good day? It must be my fault and I have to apologize. Is someone less than happy with me? I can’t focus on anything but how to make things right. Did someone do something good? They’re so much better than me. Was something great achieved? It must have been a fluke since I’m not capable enough. When I’m at a low point, there’s no reasoning with me as the self-hate is continual and nonsensical. That is, if I can even muster the strength to talk.
While you might notice a lot of “I” and “me” in those above statements, it’s not just a matter of being self-centered. When experiencing depression, it can’t be helped. Negative feelings of all things bad about yourself come to the fore and continue to haunt you. That’s just part of the condition.
Also, unlike others who can feel highs and lows, my feelings are always somewhat flat-lined – never really happy for an extended period of time and not able to feel the pain of others when I logically should. So, while I can cry at toilet paper commercials, I have a hard time relating to the death of someone. When I should bubble over with warm feelings of joy from time with loving friends and family, I just smile then go home and curl up in a ball by myself and sigh. It’s not fun. Really.
Understanding Depression – Positive Support is Crucial
Fortunately, Frans, Munchkin, and my mom are amazing supports and I’m so thankful that they continue to put up with my Mr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde in public and in private. Plus, they understand when it’s just me or when “the sickness” is taking over. The worst thing about clinical depression is that, when the symptoms are not as strong or are somewhat under control, I wonder if I have it at all or if I’ve just been making it all up all this time. As the medication starts to lose it’s strength, though, the cycle begins again and inevitably the depression rears its ugly head. If only I had some physical scar or wound then I, and others, would know it was real and not just excuse. Ugh, I hate having this.
However, this is just part of my life. It doesn’t have to define me or dictate the quality of everything else. I’m trying my best to focus on the positive. So, even if things appear carefree and rosey on the outside, looks can be deceiving. If you sense that someone is dealing with some sort of depression, try to listen and be understanding as a thoughtless statement can cause a lot of pain and hurt.