Posted by: PD Warrior | September 4, 2007

May you never understand…

 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.

Why?

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.

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Responses

  1. PD Warrior- Wow, thank you! That was awesome! You are so right, the stigma that is attached to mental illness is disheartening at best. I think the more of us that talk openly about our experiences, maybe those who are still suffering depression without any aide, will be inspired to seek help! I really like your site! I thought that was a great post and I think I am going to trackback a short post of my own to this article. Take care friend! You have a new fan in me! If you ever need someone to talk to, shoot me an e-mail!

    Like

  2. […] Death’ article from two greatbloggers. First, PD Warrior, wrote a wonderful article called May You Never Understand! His poem is beautiful and the post is honest and touching! If you are interested in reading more […]

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  3. I’m in a down time right now, although I don’t really know if I’m to the point of being clinically depressed. I’m crying a lot lately, and feeling like I’m never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel about several nagging health problems. Thank you for being open about your condition. It really does help me, and others as well, I’m sure.

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  4. I am glad you all feel this post has helped in some way or another. I almost didn’t publish it. Deep, dark secrets are often ugly, and always difficult to bring into the light.

    Ironically, for as much as you feel this post may have helped you, your positive response to it has also done wonders for me. I truly believed that I would turn readers away by opening the cage and releasing the beast for all the world to see.

    One of the things I have come to discover over the last few years is that irony often proves to be one of life’s more beautiful qualities.

    Thanks for spending time on my site.

    Like

  5. Hi Joe,

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences about depression. Your post will help break the stigma attached to depression and the stereotypes attached to depressed people.

    I’ve been fortunate that I currently don’t suffer from depression, although in the past I’ve had episodes of low level depression. However, many of my friends with Parkinson’s have suffered a great deal due to clinical depression.

    Thanks for bringing this important topic out of the closet. It takes a lot of courage to do so.

    Kate Kelsall
    Shake, Rattle and Roll
    http://katekelsall.typepad.com/my_weblog/

    Like

  6. It never ceases to amaze me how the kindness of a stranger can go so much farther than the complacency of our friends! You are very brave for exposing this side of yourself and have gained a new reader in me! Take care friend and know that I support you on your journey!

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  7. Joe,
    I know this didn’t come easy but it is one of those messages we need to hear, especially for your readers who have PD but for everyone else too. Life’s wonderful moments can be clouded by the difficult and troubling times we all find ourselves enduring. Hope has to be in the mix and if it’s not, help needs to be given and received.

    Many of us are so reluctant to seek help though talk and medications have been proven to lift the fog in many, many cases. Why is that? Isn’t time we outgrow the John Wayne syndrome?

    Thank you for opening your life and shedding some light.

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  8. Thanks for a brave account. It was like reading parts of my own past and affirming the real and one time hidden aspects of my own depression.
    Wendy

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  9. Hi Joe:
    Thank you for your post on depression. I have CP and have struggled with depression on and off throughout my life. One of the hardest things for me to do was seek help, but after I did my life was much better. Everyone likes to trell me in my times of sadness just to “suck it up” it’s not that easy when you have a disease that affects you physically. I have learned though that your disease can not get the best of you, you have to conquer it. Again, thanks for your post. ~Meg

    Like

  10. […] May you never understand… « Day by Day Adventures of The PD Warrior First, PD Warrior, wrote a wonderful article called May You Never Understand! His poem is beautiful and the post is honest and touching! […]

    Like


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