Depression is something I don’t usually like to talk about. It is a part of my life -my past- that I have always preferred to keep hidden, buried deep where no-one would ever find out about it, but this evening I read two posts that inspired me to tell my own story. The first post is titled “Sharing a Painful Story” by Sheila on Alabama Kitchen Sink. The second post is “Choosing Life Over Death” by Barrett Laurie
May You Never Understand
Depression is what depression is
And if you really want to know
I’ll tell you…
But be careful what you ask
For to truly understand, you must step inside my mind
And know what it is to feel the emptiness left behind
When all life, all hope, all happiness
Are sucked inside this hole within my chest
Leaving just my battered soul
And the will of God
To determine my fate.
I wrote this poem 3 years ago when I finally broke down and sought the help I so desperately needed to battle the clinical depression I had been living with for the better part of 25 years.
I hid my depression from everyone to avoid falling victim to the social stereotypes that so often accompany depression. I hid it so well my wife almost went into shock the day I called her from a mental health counselor’s office. I had plans to commit suicide. Everything was in place right down to the last detail, including the date and time. My saving grace…my wife bought me a dog the day before I was going to carry out my plans.
If you ever have a house full of guests that just don’t seem to get all the little hints and suggestions that they’ve overstayed their welcome, all you have to do is start talking about depression. I guarantee you that within seconds your house will be as empty as the day it was built.
Because depression, like every other disorder associated with mental health carries with it some very heavy social stigmatisms. Some of the more common stereotypes about people with depression are
- they are too weak to face their own problems
- they’re just a bunch of sissies
- they’re crazy
- they belong in the looney bin
just to name a few. I’ve even had some people ask me if depression was contagious. (No, it isn’t)
The truth is that the majority of people perpetrating these misconceptions are only doing so because they either don’t understand the disease (yes, clinical depression is a disease) or they are afraid of it for one reason or another.
I can tell you from my own personal experience that depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Having depression does not mean you are weak – it actually takes an extremely strong person to face their depression.
Having depression does not mean you are crazy. I have a diagnosis of clinical depression, and I’m certainly not crazy – well, depending on who you ask I’m not (my children and their friends may disagree with that statement.)
I can also tell you this: It has nothing to do with being to weak to face your problems. People with depression don’t need an excuse to be sad; they just are. In my case, the fact that I knew there was no “logical reason” for me to be depressed usually made the situation worse.
For me, there is also a physical sensation that goes along with the depressive episodes. I really don’t have a good way to describe this feeling, other than to say that I literally feel like I have a “Black Hole” in my chest just waiting to explode. It’s almost a nauseating feeling. On top of that, all the muscles in my face and jaw want to tighten up making my head feel like it could cave in at any moment.
These physical feelings I experience are also accompanied by emotional feelings of intense sadness, and at times even worthlessness – very rarely blame, but always worthlessness.
The first time I felt like this I tried talking to my parents. Believe me when I say that didn’t go over well. Now don’t get me wrong. My parents loved me. There was never any doubt in my mind about that, but they very definitely believed every stereotypical rumor that ever existed. Initially my depression was “just a phase he’s going through.” From there it went to “suck it up, don’t be such a sissy, face your problems like a man!” When none of those theories worked they reverted to the ever popular standard (and my personal favorite) response – “if we just ignore it, it will go away.” The worst part of everything was that my friends felt the same way, including the ones that I helped get through depressive episodes of their own. Some of them even began to avoid me as if I had the plague.
Eventually I learned to “suck it up.” I perfected the technique of “dealing with the feeling” through the use of logic. I’d come to realize that these episodes would eventually go away on their own. I also knew they would come back, but I tried not to think about that.
I became very good at hiding all the symptoms I had.
Thank God (and my wife, along with the dog) I don’t have to hide anything anymore.
Oh, and the one good thing about depression: It is very treatable. A good counselor, and antidepressants if needed, can go a long way. I can not believe the difference in my life. there was a time when I had all but forgotten what it felt like to be happy.
There is hope for everyone. If I can beat this, anyone can.
Facts about Clinical Depression
- it is different from the normal periods of sadness that everyone feels.
- Clinical depression is an overwhelming sense of sadness/despair/worthlessness that lasts for a period of longer than two weeks at a time.
- Clinical depression may or may not be accompanied by thoughts of death or suicide
- being depressed does not mean you are “crazy”
- depression can be controlled by counseling, antidepressants, or a combination of both
Facts about Depression and Parkinson’s Disease:
- studies have shown as many as 40-50% of people with Parkinson’s disease also suffer from depression.
- A large number of people with both PD and depression had the signs/symptoms of depression before they had the symptoms of PD.
- Depression often goes undiagnosed in people with PD because many of its physical symptoms mimic those of PD such as a blank facial expression, chronic fatigue, slow movement, loss of interest in activities.
- A high percentage of people with PD and depression feel the actual depression is worse than the physical characteristics of PD(Myself included. I can compensate for the physical losses in many different ways, but emotionally PD has stolen my identity)
- Even if you have PD, depression is still treatable
Forgive me for rambling on for so long. I guess that once I started I couldn’t stop until everything was off my chest.