Depression from the Patient's Point of View

Depression is one of the most misunderstood afflictions out there. I've argued that part of the reason for this is a failure of the English language. It's strange that we use the same word to describe someone with a biochemically altered brain contemplating taking their own life and a four year old pouting because the rain forced his birthday party inside. These aren't even close to being the same thing, and yet both are called "depressed." 

Thinking of depression as a disease can be difficult because so much of it is from brain chemistry and comes out in the form of emotions, or a nearly complete lack thereof. This isn't the way most diseases work, and so it's harder to see the symptoms and understand that depression is far more than just "being sad." 

When I went through the depths of my most severe depressive episode, a deep depression lasting between four to five years, one of the hardest parts was trying to understand that it wasn't my fault. There is such a stigma attached to depression: abomination, aberration, psycho killer waiting to happen, insane, mentally crazy, weak, sissy, etc. The names are endless and they all have one thing in common: making the suffering person feel ashamed, stigmatized, ostracized, and basically more isolated than ever. This only makes things much, much worse.

You wouldn't tell a cancer patient to just try not to have cancer, or someone with dementia to just smile and get over it, and yet depression is often treated that way. 

Depression is a disease that happens because the brain's chemistry is off and that affects every hormone in the body. There's so much we don't know about this affliction, but it's a serious one. A full quarter of deaths that occur from people ages 15-25 are from suicide. People consider suicide a separate thing from depression, yet the direct connection is there and those casualties often times could have been prevented with just a little bit of treatment and understanding early on in.

You're on the wrong path if you think of depression as a synonym for grief. While this can be true in the beginning or a symptom, the deeper levels it's common to just not feel anything. The deep dullness, the ache of feeling nothing day after day after day is a terrible burden that just wears down over time. The worst thing in that situation is to feel alone and isolated and like everyone believes this is your fault. 

Depression is really like a disease, and left untreated it can become suicide and kill the afflicted. Like cancer, depression is an affliction that can go into remission, but it is never just cured or never just gone. It needs to be taken seriously, and more understanding has to be given to those unfortunate souls who suffer from this affliction.

One first person point of view depression memoir

Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface
Amazon Price: $14.00 $2.70 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 13, 2016)
Want to hear about depression from a first person point of view? This book gives a great view of the descent into depression, and is written by a psychologist, making it even more interesting to get the insights of what is happening from someone who is a professional in the field.

Depression from the Clinical Point of View

Depression isn't the fault of family members or tragedies or rough upbringings. While often times a traumatic experience can be the catalyst which causes the initial depression, the affliction comes from the brain never correcting itself. Everything becomes gray or shaded compared to the way it should be. While scientists and doctors don't know a lot about depression, they do know that it is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

This can come from parts of the brain being over active just as easily as it can come from many parts of the brain being under active. Hormone balances can be off, or sometimes we just don't know why depression takes hold. This can lead to a patient feeling like they are constantly having to live a "double life," the stress of which is absolutely devastating on so many levels.

While each experience can be very individualized and very different, some common symptoms include lethargy, apathy, loss of goals and hopes, loss of motivation, severe fatigue, severe exhaustion, heavy sleeping, and more.

Comedian Kevin Breel on Depression

Kevin Breel's amazing TED talk on the shame of living with depression

How to relate to depression when you don't understand it

Relating to someone suffering from depression can be difficult, especially if you have never found yourself in the same situation. There is a constant narrative going in the mind of a depressed person, one that is saying how worthless the person is, how they don't deserve love, how terrible they are for not being able to function. You can't guilt trip a depressed person into feeling better, because they already feel worse about themselves than you can possibly imagine.

Relating is hard, and there's no easy answer for how to do it. Each individual is a little different, but knowing we're not alone is a huge part of being able to recover from the insidious effects that depression can have on the minds of someone suffering. Don't run away from this issue - but see the video, visit blogs, and see from first hand accounts what it's like so you can walk a mile in their shoes and make sure they don't become a needless suicide statistic.

Mourning and depression can go hand in hand

Depression and Mourning
Credit: Public Domain

A beautiful black and white public domain picture on depression. This artist does a good job of capturing that feeling of despair.

One of the most popular books on treating depression

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Book & CD)
Amazon Price: $21.95 $8.44 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 13, 2016)
This isn't an end all-be all book, but it is a very well respected work on accepting and dealing with depression, and on attempting to give patients the personal tools they need in order to help overcome depression or at least have the ability to fight for a better life.