Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A bit more on depression

i found a significant article this morning while doing my regular morning news reading. People are advocating for changes in how depression is diagnosed, because sometimes life means getting sad. That's a vastly oversimplified way of summarizing the findings of this study, but that's as simple as I could get it. From what I read, I agree with the basic findings but I also see some risks here. I pray that wisdom will prevail as psychiatrists refine their definition of this illness.

When my mother died, the pain was overwhelming. Her death was sudden and unexpected. When your parents are significantly older than you, noticeably older than your friends' parents, there is part of you that begins to prepare for their death a little early. Despite this, I still wasn't ready, and the pain of losing her was sharp. There were just too many things we hadn't done, and the sadness consumed me. However, I wasn't depressed. I didn't feel confused. I didn't feel hopeless. I could go to bed at night and fall asleep, even though I was crying. I could walk outside and smile as I saw her roses bloom and remember how much she loved them. I could laugh at memories as well as cry over them. I could still enjoy food and the company of friends, even if it was just for a moment before the sadness took me again. I knew both logically and emotionally that what I was experiencing would pass.

With depression, that understanding just simply isn't there. There's a persistent drumming of what's the point in everything you do. When depressed, I feel like things have always been terrible, always will be terrible, and that I have no power to change things. My energy is sapped. It's hard to keep track of even small things. Something as little as not finding my keys easily is hard proof of unfitness for life. My thinking becomes circular, and I don't see a way to make things different. Insomnia has been my bane when I'm depressed, but for my husband, depression takes him the other way. Sleep is all he can do when he's depressed. The result either way is constant fatigue, and then recriminations over what we're not getting done. Food holds no real pleasure, but eating becomes a way of striving to be normal. Food is associated with good times, and just the act of eating is reaching for something beyond pain. The ultimate defining feeling of depression for me is a complete lack of hope.

Sadness is a bit like holding one's breath. The normal pleasure of life is paused, but with a long cycle of exhale and inhale, can be resumed. Depression is more like drowning, and your mind and body change as they feel no air is coming. There is choice in how we feel sadness, but depression makes us feel like we have no choice. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way. There are lifeguards we can reach for with therapy, medication, exercise, and health care.

We don't need to run from sadness, but we do need to be aware of it. Going through sadness sharpens the good experiences in life. We appreciate them more when we're aware that both good times and bad are fleeting. When it feels like things are never going to change, that's when it's a problem. We just don't recognize it as such when we feel like the good times will never end.

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Blogger Jul said...

I have been reading your blog for a few of months now and this post in particular stuck a nerve with me. My Mother too had me late in life. I am more than 12 years younger than my siblings. She passed away and was buried on my 18th birthday. The following year brought so many changes. The only time I saw the light of day was when I drove to the cemetery to sit on the grass over her grave. By the end of the first year I had added nearly 90 pounds to my once healthy, athletic frame. Along with the physical changes came emotional changes. I lost hope. I couldn't find a reason to live. On the first anniversary of my Mother's death I drank an entire bottle of whisky and slit my left wrist. One day later I woke up. Call it divine intervention or maybe just good platelets, I accepted I was meant to be here. Thankfully there was one person in my life at that time that showed me where to get help. I learned my struggle with depression started long before my Mother's passing and it continued well after. Her death allowed me to let myself fall to a level where the darkness and dispair was all consuming. I have battled that monster over and over. I battled with therapy, with medications and ultimately, by helping others. I lost most of the weight I had put on and I learned to understand my triggers and how to, if not avoid them, at least work through them. After all, I was meant to be here as are you. Every bad day you get though is a victory. You have an amazing gift as a writer. I hope everyone who reads your blog recommends it to others and so on. I wish you continued success with your weight loss goals and with sorting the rest of those pieces.

You were meant to be here.
And as one of your avid readers, I am thankful you are.

April 03, 2007 8:54 PM  
Blogger some chick said...

ah yes.....

ah yes.....


I also dropped by because I don't have your correct e-mail, I had to take my blog totally private yesturday but can't explain why here. I have no readers yet. my e-mail is christina@ckays1967.com

April 04, 2007 6:23 AM  
Blogger Nelle said...

What jul said was so eloquent and true about depression and your blog. Often many depressed people do not get help because they feel there is a stigma associated with depression. I think most people go through at least a mild depression at some time in their life. It's the knowledge that others have grown through it and survived that often gives one hope during the bleakest hours.

April 05, 2007 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

So very well said!!! Thank you Cynthia for expressing so clearly what I've known in my brain and felt in my own life. The two are very closely related, and share similarities, yet are totally different.

April 05, 2007 10:23 PM  

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