I stumbled into my computer screen today to write a post about “being” depressed. I wrote the entire post…then, I erased it. It was filled with images and words about “feeling” sadness, anger, and fear, not “being” depressed…as I reread my own words, a light went on inside my insular tunnel and I decided what I was TRYING to say wasn’t really what I meant. So this post was written instead…
In my early twenties (and frankly, well into my early thirties), I withstood several bouts of serious depressive episodes. These episodes would wash over me without warning or cause, yet I always seemed to search tirelessly for their meaning and the catalyst that created them. I spent thousands of dollars on therapies, medications, trips of avoidance, and STILL the depressive episodes would suffocate me…like a giant wave or a tight noose around my neck…making the simple act of breathing in life a struggle.
I “know” depression well because I have BEEN it…felt it, touched it, tasted it, and breathed it…I “know” depression well because I have lived it… I “know” depression well because I have and continue to work with it daily in my chosen profession and have born witness to it, watching its profound affect in the many faces and lives depression touches. I recognize depression when it shows itself and, because of this familiarity, I can work with it in others, holding their space within my hands, in hopes of molding depression into something less frightening for them.
In my twenties, I wrote poems about my depressive episodes in an attempt to find meaning amidst the words. Poems such as the following flowed out of me like violent rivers jumping their banks:
And hating in.
Stirring the dust
That’s in my mind.
Empty fear to
Taunt my soul.
And letting go.
Yet breathing air.
To end the pain.
No way out
I think I’ll self-destruct.
Depression seems to carry a language of its own, often requiring translation for those less familiar. And, but for the grace of God go they, those who have never endured depression whispering in their ears, struggle to make sense of the words. To someone who has never experienced true, clinical depression, the language can feel quite foreign and be entirely misunderstood. The language of depression can also become “inviting” to use without understood definitions…much like throwing out catch phrases picked up in High School French class or street slang heard in movies. We unfortunately think we are “relating” by using the language in “catch phrases”, when in fact we are simply confusing the translation or carelessly misusing the impact…further alienating the person who is in the depressive episode.
I say all of this to explain the light that went on inside my head today and WHY I deleted my previously written post about “being” depressed…because I am NOT depressed…because I was carelessly using the word “depressed” as a catch phrase to describe the sensation of feeling out of control of my life in the moment. Which, if I exam my current situation closely, IS ONLY A MOMENT…not forever, and not feeling forever…simply a moment of discomfort in time.
When one truly feels depression, there are no moments…only lifetimes. And those lifetimes of feeling become longer than any hours of a day, week, or year one could imagine enduring. There are no “segments” of feeling joy…there is no vision of a future without depression…there is no hope OF a future. Most often, there is no “hope” at all and many times any identifiable feelings such as sadness, anger, or hurt, have been drained of any recognizable substance…one who feels true depression sometimes cannot identify their feelings because those feelings simply no longer exist…they have been sucked into the void of darkness.
I am sad, frightened, and angry about my current moment in life…it saddens me that I cannot jump up off my couch and participate in my usual life at the moment. It frightens me to feel this vulnerable in my MS and not be able to predict my future. And it angers me that I have to experience this “moment” in my life at all…thanks to life’s curve ball circumstances of a car accident/serious virus/MS onset symptoms. But I AM experiencing these feelings and so very thankful to have them and be able to identify them…I am grateful my life DOES contain joy, peace, and comfort, and that it is not cloaked in the darkness of depression.
Don’t get me wrong here…I am NOT whistling “Zippity Doo Dah” out my ass, but I also am NOT depressed. And I do not want to negate or degrade another’s experience of depression by using the word as a “catch phrase” for expressing my feelings. I can translate the language, but I am NOT speaking it now…
Now, as a disclaimer (because I cannot and do not offer medical advice here, even though I pride myself in playing a doctor on the Internet!), I must say…if you are finding yourself caught submerged under the wave or in the noose of depression, tell someone…anyone…even if they cannot fully understand the language you are using. The person you disclose this to will hopefully find a translator for you that CAN understand what you are saying. And if depression is griping you so strongly that you are feeling no way out of its grasp other than suicide, give yourself a moment to BREATHE…and then another moment…and another.
What I sometimes tell people is this: If you are depressed and suicidal and have NOT tried every available intervention to alter your circumstances, you owe it to yourself to do so. Most of us would try every intervention known to medicine to cure our cancer/MS/diabetes/heart disease/etc., before giving up and laying down to die…depression should be no different. It would be a great loss to kill yourself BEFORE realizing the intervention you needed was right around the corner. And if you have already decided suicide is your only answer, then there IS NO RUSH TO ACT UPON THE DECISION. Give yourself a month, three months, or six months to TRY another intervention(s) until you have truly exhausted all probable assistance. Again, if you have already come to the suicide conclusion, you can always hold this decision in your cards for later use, but you do NOT HAVE TO PLAY YOUR HAND IMPULSIVELY NOW. Be wise about any permanent solutions.