Depression? How does it feel? How long is a piece of string?
It is, I think, impossible to explain in words to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. Fortunately most haven’t, for it isn’t just having a bad day, feeling upset as some thing that’s happened or being sad.
Depression is a mind overflowing with though and yet empty of them. It doesn’t have a sign to tell people, though some will recognise symptoms of it, most won’t. They won’t because depression is intrinsic to your personality or character. It come about from inherited genetics, from the feeling and stability of the mother at conception and during pregnancy and, after birth, from the engagement one has with parents, siblings, peer group, teachers, peer groups and the many sick and ill-conceived, even deluded ways, which are endemic to the way most modern societies socialise children.
Depression finds one feeling terribly alone and, at the same time, desperately wanting the company of others – or even just one- who will say the right words, point out a direction, recognise your need, acknowledge that you have a real issue, and accept you without judgment.
If and when that person comes along, you are more likely to remain quiet than to unburden yourself. The last thing you want to do is to lay your toxicity on others. Yes, you recognise that only you can do anything to change what you feel and you want to take responsibility for that but it isn’t easy. For most it’s impossible for our world doesn’t allow it. “How dare you be depressed when you have a comfortable home and people that care and a job and music and a car and almost everything for which you could wish – and out there are people living on the streets, people being tortured, living in poverty in majority world countries and even our own, etc. etc.”
Yes, you know you have no right to be depressed. You know that there are further steps downward for you to take. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that you don’t see any upward step to take. The problem is that you haven’t decided to feel this way and that although you can understand some of why you do, much of what you understand you can’t accept and much of what you accept you can’t understand.
You think often about your depression and factors, resentments, disappointments, disagreements, losses, and whatever that you believe has contributed to it. And you don’t think about it, because as you analyse all these factors it all becomes to hard. Your mind closes down and you want to sleep – often do sleep, sitting up or doing whatever you were doing – and not realising until you eventually wake, sometimes fresh, energised and with all the darkness gone and other times with an even greater blackness encompassing you.
Depression is like a mugger in the park at night. You’re walking home and all is well. Suddenly, out of the darkness your confronted by two figures who demand what they think you have, but you don’t, so you can’t give it. Perhaps they turn away then and leave you. Perhaps you get beaten. Either way, you blame yourself for having walked home by that route, at that time, and even, perhaps, having done something to anger these mugger and encourage them to attack you.
There is no real constant about depression other than that it is always there, waiting to strike. One moment you can be the life and soul of the party or the best thought of employee or student – the next you are running, hiding, avoiding everyone and everything. Not only that but, at those times, you are convinced that you have not deserved whatever credit has been given to you and that you are a fraud.
Although it strikes without warning and, apparently, from nowhere, it is very hard to find the equanimity to deal with it. Indeed, your tendency is *notto attempt to deal with it but rather to accept that this is what you’ve brought upon yourself – it’s what you had coming – there’s no one to blame but yourself.
Most others see none of this because you become a master of disguises and because, often, you will retreat from options that would cause you to meet others. However, you have family and must go to work or school or college or whatever, and there are people there. So you adapt. You train youself to put on a “normal” face, to laugh at jokes, to fit in. You disguise your inner monologue well and only the most astute and attentive or observant other will recognise that you are putting on a face.
Of course, this pretence is not easy but becomes more so with time. However, far from assisting to alleviate the depression, it increases it, because you feel guilty for not being honest and reprimand yourself even more for being a fraud.
Depression is impossible to explain to one who hasn’t been depressed. Even to one who has been, I suspect that there are substantial differences in how it manifests.
What I do know is that “move on”, or “look what you have to live for” or “snap out of it” are some of the worst words of advice you can offer, no matter how positive your motive. Those who are depressed don’t expect you to understand. Most of them have tried to explain to others, even to professionals, and they know that there will never be enough interest, patience, or active listening, for anyone to understand, let alone be able to help.
What is depression like? It’s like walking through a bog, deeply shrowded in mist, during a moonless night, and trying to appreciate the beauty whilst, at the same time, feeling an inevitable pointlessness to everything.
It is a sad, lonely, overwhelming feeling that affects you both physically and mentally and that hits you when you are least prepared.
I’m not, but if I were religious, I imagine that depression would be the feeling someone who had always felt themselves to have been a kind, gentle, caring and compassionate person, met St Peter at the pearly gates and was denied access and must, instead, face the heat of the devils lair.