For those of you who have never been depressed it’s difficult to imagine. It’s hard to understand any illness we haven’t experienced ourselves or can’t actually see. It’s easy to understand the pain of someone coming out of surgery, or with a broken bone, or any physical ailment that is visible to the eye. The mind is a complex and tricky thing. It provides us with all kinds of mind boggling conundrums we are yet to comprehend. The dictionary describes depression as “sadness; gloom; dejection”. It also describes it as “a depressed or sunken place or part; an area lower than the surrounding place or part.”
Often times those who haven’t experienced depression will says things like, “Just be happy.” or “Smile. It’s okay”. This isn’t possible for someone in a state of depression. It’s not possible to just smile and everything is better. If that were possible, we would certainly do it! It’s similar to an addict who is told, “Just stop using.” They very rarely grew up saying, “I think I’ll be a drug addict when I grow up.” If they could “just stop” they most certainly would. Can a person with severe Parkinson’s Disease just throw down the walker and walk? Can someone with a broken wrist just take off the cast and use the hand?Nobody wishes on themselves to experience depression. Everybody who experiences it however does wish it to go away.
Individuals who are depressed often don’t know why. Many times we will be asked,”What’s wrong? What’s causing it? Why are you sad?” Again if we knew that, we could probably fix it. There are however factors that can contribute to, or trigger depression such as low serotonin levels, loneliness, chronic pain, loss, and stress. The feeling of depression is like a dark cloud that hovers over us and follows us wherever we go, no matter how fast we try to outrun it or ignore it. That dark cloud makes the world seem insurmountable and unbearable to maneuver. Depression causes numerous problems. A depressed individual will experience lack of energy, inability to stop crying, lack of sleep or too much sleep, difficulty focusing on even the most simple task, feelings of inadequacy, low self-worth, feelings of being unlovable, incapable, loss of appetite or overeating to fill a void, like a bucket with a hole in the bottom.
I’ll bet when Webster dictionary wrote the noun definition “a depressed or sunken place or part; an area lower than the surrounding place or part.” they had no idea they were in fact also describing a state of mind. That’s how depression often feels – like we are as low as low can get, lower than others in many ways, sunken into a pit with no means to get out. Unwanted, unneeded, unworthy.
Just like any other illness, there are things one can do to minimize the effects of depression. Similar to a diabetic who needs to eat healthy, exercise, visit the doctor, take blood sugar levels, medications if necessary, and be mind and body aware, the depressed individual should have a toolbox of skills to assist them. That doesn’t mean they won’t get depressed. It does mean it may, and I do emphasize may help. Often times, medications can help. Other important things are exercise, mindfulness, journaling, healthy eating, having a network of good friends who are not only willing to listen but want to. It’s even more important to have these tools in place and participate in them regularly, prior to a depressive episode, rather than waiting until the depression sets in. Once that’s happened, it’s often too late to gather the strength, energy, and mind frame to initiate the activities. Similar to anxiety, if you wait until you’re in a full blown panic attack it’s a little late to practice the relaxation techniques your counselor suggested a month ago.
Depression can be debilitating. It can lead to job loss, health problems and emotional devastation. Take care of yourself and remember that others may need you even if you can’t see it.
The other day I went to a meditation class. Each person in the class had a candle lit in front of them. My task was to focus on the candle’s flame and think of something positive or something I wanted to improve about my life. I chose self-love. As I watched the candle, I noticed the streams of light glaring off the candle pointed directly at me. No matter how I moved, those lines of light followed the flame straight to my body. I focused on what self-love means to me and what I want it to mean. I had some realizations, important ones. One of them is that I have to take care of myself, physically and emotionally, because nobody else will. And I’m worth it.