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"As I Lay Living..."

By Edited May 13, 2016 3 15

Battling Chronic Depression

Chronic depression, clinically known as major depressive disorder, affects millions.  Not only does it make the sufferer feel terrible, it can also kill.

Overwhelming feelings of malaise, hopelessness, and listlessness plague the depressive.  Low self-esteem coupled with a crushing sense of worthlessness combine to erode the sufferer’s sense of purpose or place in the world.  Despair and loneliness of the kind most people never feel are constant companions.  Life is not worth living, and the simple act of rising from bed every day becomes a Herculean task.

The recurrent depressive cannot become motivated oftentimes for the simplest tasks.  Many activities from which the sufferer once gained pleasure no longer hold any allure.  Lack of energy (both mental and physical) typifies the condition.

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Other symptoms include loss of appetite.  This leads to poor eating habits, and in turn to general poor health.  Another aspect of clinical depression relates to sleep.  Ironically, the person with recurrent depression either cannot sleep (has chronic insomnia) or sleeps too much (often for more than fourteen hours per day).   These pendulum sleep patterns may alternate rapidly: one day not sleeping, the next day sleeping too much.

Major depression, untreated, can kill simply by what one might term “slow suicide”.  Poor eating habits lead to malnutrition, which in turn can lead to a compromised immune system, exposing the depressive to illnesses he/she normally would not catch.  But beyond this single biological issue lay two other, more critical, causes of death: suicide and substance addiction.

Death is very desirable to the depressed.  Many simply cannot take the rudderless, “down” feeling anymore, and choose to end their lives (hanging, slashed wrists, etc.).  Others, while perhaps not actually intending to kill themselves outright, turn to “self-medicating”.  The sufferer becomes addicted to alcohol or other substances to stave off the bad feelings.  In another ironic twist, alcohol and many other drugs of addiction are depressants, thus making the user feel more depressed,  leading to more substance abuse to ease suffering.  Liver disease and other organ failure (and other complications leading to death) can occur.

The last "death" method is more of a passive-aggressive approach to “life”.  The depressive, feeling he or she has truly nothing worth living for, may not overtly attempt to take his/her own life. Such a person may apathetically engage in high-risk behaviors that could ultimately kill him (rock climbing without proper safety gear, for example).  He may learn he has a life-threatening illness, such as a cancer.  This person may choose to refuse medical treatment and will allow the disease to kill him in due course.

Unfortunately, the chronic depressive is not the only one suffering.  The depressive’s family, friends, and co-workers all suffer, too.  The mother too depressed to rise from her bed and play with her children, the father who stays drunk and doesn’t engage in family activities, the teenager who abuses drugs: all adversely affect the people who love them.  This is not by design.  The chronic depressive (generally very inwardly focussed) is not seeking sympathy from others; he or she simply wants the agony to stop.  One of the more frustrating aspects of clinical depression is the inability to adequately explain to another how one feels.  The average person does not understand how debilitating this disorder is, and therefore cannot comprehend why one would behave as he/she does.   

The good news is effective psychiatric and medical care exists.  The condition stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain, upsetting the brain’s serotonin levels.  There are also emotional and sociological components that work with the chemical imbalance to create the chronic depressive.  Treatments begin when the sufferer recognizes something is “wrong”.  Failing this epiphany (and most depressed people are not inclined to seek help), others in the person’s life may notice the changed behaviors more readily and can entice the person into a treatment program.

Therapy and medications can work wonders.  There are many antidepressants on the market.  Two of the better ones are Zoloft™ and fluoxetine (generic name for Prozac™).  Both work to re-establish chemical balances in the brain.  Neither provides a sense of euphoria or elation, but rather allows the depressive to live without the debilitating lethargy that typifies the disorder.  These are maintenance drugs; one may likely be on them for the rest of his/her life.    

Consulting with a mental healthcare professional is the very first step.  Once a diagnosis is established and a treatment protocol recommended, stick with it! The temptation is great, once on medication, to stop taking it when one feels “better”.  This is not what’s best for the depressive – within a short time of stopping medication almost all sufferers revert to the depressive behaviors.  But, keep in mind, there is hope, and the people who truly care will counsel and support.

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Comments

Oct 23, 2011 2:20am
catgypsy
Very good article. It is so important for people to realize what a depressed person is going through and you detailed this very well.
Oct 29, 2011 3:46am
vicdillinger
Thanks for reading it -- I AM that guy, so I know what it's about, and the toughest thing about it isn't one's own suffering but the simple inability to adequately explain yourself to others.
Nov 6, 2011 6:59pm
tom3434
Thank you for your article! Unfortunately, it is still all too common for the sufferers of depression to feel shameful of their condition. Lack of understand and acceptance is to blame, articles highlighting the severity of depression are always welcome.
Feb 10, 2012 2:22am
vicdillinger
Thanks for reading it. I used to have zero understanding myslef unitl it happened to me!
Feb 9, 2012 7:57pm
Travis_Aitch
Another great article! I was pulled in by the title because I like a band named "As I Lay Dying", but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise because I have depression and anxiety problems pretty bad. I'm not too keen on the idea of taking pills for it though :/
Feb 10, 2012 2:28am
vicdillinger
“As I Lay Dying” is a classic novel by William Faulkner, hence the twist of phrase for the “living death” that is depression I used for my title.

Prozac really does work. I'm not telling you what to do, but I know the difference between the "before" and "after" (and if you read my piece called "Holiday in Rehab" you'll see just how far down chronic depression can take you without proper treatment).
Feb 10, 2012 1:36am
DebDavies
Recent efforts are making the general public more aware of the fact that some people suffering from depression are quick to anger.
Feb 10, 2012 2:32am
DebDavies
eta Rather than just passively accepting of life situations.
Feb 10, 2012 2:43am
vicdillinger
Anger isn’t really part of my psychological make-up (nor jealously, either).

Intense and sudden annoyance with people is, and I have little patience with certain kinds of people. I’ve been that way all my life.

Thanks for reading and for putting forth another aspect of depression of which I was unaware.
Feb 10, 2012 2:34am
ZiggyD
Good article Vic and hauntingly ironic title choice. I have known a good number of people with severe depression and anxiety and have perhaps gone through some minro depression myself. I am pretty good at changing my mindset and bouncing back (I am overly analytical of thoughts and pretty un-emotive) but that ability does not exist for people with severe conditions. You are correct in saying that there is always a way out, through help. Often family members have to realize that they can't actually help their loved ones themselves and that they have to go to someone who can. And if a counselor isn't helpful, go to another. Not every counsellor is right for every patient, it's important to keep trying.
Feb 10, 2012 2:46am
vicdillinger
I refused for a long time to believe in it myself -- thought I was being a giant wuss. Until my joie de vivre was completely gone, etc.

Thanks for reading (I was trying to put some links in to update this and suddenly it's gotten attention -- this is an older piece).
Feb 10, 2012 3:40am
inkedwriter
The hardest part for me was "keeping up appearances" as best I could to friends and family. It was physically and mentally exhausting trying to hide that I felt completely worthless and dead inside. Like you I have severe annoyance issues, which actually sparks into anger very quickly. I hate taking medication, but when I am off I feel that slide start to happen around the 6-8 week mark, just as soon as that stuff is flushed out my system...probably be on it for the rest of my life, which will be a lot longer if I stay the course.
Feb 10, 2012 3:46am
vicdillinger
Yeah, the keeping up appearances was tough. I didn't want to be on a maintenance drug for the rest of my life, either. Like many poeple, and I'm sure you've done this, too, apparently, once I started feeling better I'd quit taking the Prozac, and within a short time be right back where I was. Now, like it or not, I take it every day. It's either that or die.
Feb 10, 2012 7:41am
Travis_Aitch
You guys both sound exactly like me. Sorry to hear it, but at the same time, glad to hear it. Or read it, I suppose. One of these days I may work up the nerve to try some prescription medication. I think I'm gonna try and tough it out until about this time next year when I plan to be able to quit my day job though. Something tells me having financial freedom and general freedom from a crappy factory job I've had since fresh-out-of high school will make me a bit more cheery! And thanks for the recommendations, Vic!
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