What is Depression, and Why Can’t I Just Cheer Up?


While most people think they understand what depression is, it’s actually one of the most commonly misunderstood mental illnesses out there. So much so, some people don’t even consider it a mental illness. They tend to look at is as more of an emo/goth type lifestyle that people choose. As if feeling worthless, hopeless, and like you might actually be going crazy is something anyone would choose.

Okay. So What is Depression?

First of all, there’s a lot more to depression than just being sad. I guess if I had to choose the one word that was the easiest to spell that might come anywhere close to describing what it feels like, sad might work. But it’s really a lot more complicated and agonizing than that.

How Depression Makes You Feel

Lonely

It is absolutely possible to feel lonely in a room full of people. Not only that, but it’s possible to feel lonely when you’re with someone you’re intimately close to.

The fact is, being around people who seem to be feeling great can actually make you feel worse. You begin to question what’s wrong with you, and why you feel the way you do. You don’t feel a connection to the people around you because you are so emotionally removed from them, from everything. This leads to feeling like nobody understands you, and you’re the only one in your “boat” so to speak.

Unmotivated

Aside from just not really wanting to be around a bunch of happy people when you feel like shit on a stick, depression leaves you feeling absolutely zero motivation to do anything. Suddenly you just don’t give a damn about the things that you usually enjoy.

Nine times out of ten, you don’t even want to get out of bed. Not because your bed’s extra comfy, but because when you’re sleeping, you aren’t feeling. It’s an instant escape from the misery you’re experiencing when you’re awake. Also, depression causes fatigue which tends to help out with the whole sleep thing.

Worthless

Considering the fact that you don’t really feel like you can relate to anyone, and you have absolutely no desire to leave your bed, let alone your house, chances are you aren’t being very productive. The dishes are piling up, you probably stink like 3-day-old sleep, and if you can’t even perform the most basic daily rituals, like bathing, what exactly are you good for? 

Not a whole lot. Or so you think. You know other people are going on with their lives, and there you sit, wearing the same pjs, sporting a permanent pillow mark across your face, and your hair seems to be transforming itself into something closely related to dread locks. No matter how horrible you feel about how you look or smell, it isn’t motivation enough to do anything about it. I mean, what’s the point?

Hopeless

Nobody understands, and you’re purely worthless. There is absolutely nothing in your life to be happy about, or so that’s how it feels. All of a sudden, you become acutely aware of the fact that you’re however many years old, and all your old friends from high school seem to have all their shit together…according to Facebook anyway. What is wrong with you?

In fact, you are so far away from having your shit together, there’s really no point in even trying. This feeling of utter misery is never gong to end. Your life is an absolute joke. You actually start to ask yourself questions like, “Do I really want to live like this? What’s the point? Wouldn’t it be easier to just…”

Feeling Removed from the World

If you hadn’t already noticed, by this point you’re in pretty deep. Questioning the point of living is pretty much as scary as it gets. You can hear cars going by outside. Your friends call to see if you want to have lunch. The Oscar’s was on last night, and the people looked so happy. What kind of alternate universe are you living in where life has no color and everything blows?

Everybody else is just going on like all is well, and you begin to jump at the sound of something outside your door. You find yourself praying that nobody knocks. If you do happen to have to leave the house to go to work or run to the store for toilet paper or something, you feel like a leper. Everyone is staring at you, and wondering what in the hell is wrong with you.

Anxious

If you haven’t already reached the anxiety point, this is where it kicks in. Though they can and often do exist separately, depression feeds on anxiety and anxiety feeds on depression.You start to REALLY live inside your head. You pick apart all the irrational thoughts, and even though you KNOW it’s the depression causing all of this, you can’t stop wondering…

Crazy?

Are you going crazy? Why in the hell can’t you snap out of this? What kind of person feels like this? Why is everyone else fine, but you feel like absolutely everything in your life is wrong somehow? Why can’t you stop picking, prodding, and probing every single thought that goes through your mind? Why did you suddenly burst into tears when you ran out of diet coke? Why are you terrified of someone knocking on your door? Why can’t you get dressed and face the world like everybody else? Is it EVER going to end?

And then it does…

Either you just wake up and feel normal one day, or something finally pulls you out of it. But suddenly, you’re back to yourself. You think back and realize that the past few days were horrible, but misery loses its intensity in hindsight. You feel so much better, you barely even give it much thought. So, you go back to your normal life… until one day, maybe a week, maybe a month down the road, the dice fail to roll in your favor, and you fall down the hole all over again.

Why Can’t You Stop if You Know What it Is?

The truth is, it’s a mental illness. It overrides all rational thought. Depression isn’t just something you think. You aren’t just sitting there thinking about how terrible things are. There chemicals in your brain are unbalanced. There really is a “feel good” juice, and your brain doesn’t make enough of it.

So rather than just thinking differently when you’re depressed, you actually feel different. You are different. People who suffer from chronic depression, me included, even experience physical pain during these episodes. You should never let anyone make you feel like you should just be able to pull yourself out of it. It doesn’t work that way, and someone who’s never experienced it could never understand it.

What Can You Do?

If you haven’t already, definitely see a doctor. Whether you’re for or against pharmaceutical treatment, you need to see someone who can help. I can attest to the benefits of medication. It’s nothing like the negative stereotypes make it out to be.

The strongest contributor to these negative stereotypes is that some of these medications can cause negative side effects when you first begin taking them, and almost all of them take four to six weeks to build up in your system and actually work on the depression. Too many sufferers begin the medication, experience clouded thinking or muted feelings, and stop taking them immediately. The truth is, most people just don’t give the medicine enough time to take proper effect.

I don’t walk around like a zombie with no feelings at all. Depression medication doesn’t dull or turn anything off. It works to reconnect the circuits that aren’t firing like they should be. They alter the chemical levels in your brain, bringing them to a normal level.

Do I still get depressed? Yes, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often or last half as long as before. Either way, your treatment is your choice. However, if you are suffering from depression, please do see some kind of doctor. You don’t have to do it alone. Also, I would be happy to help in any way I can. Talking to someone who actually understands what you’re going through can make all the difference in the world.

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