Depression – Exceedingly Sad / Isolated or Angry
“Depression is an awful dark void where not one rare high-spirited thought could reveal a sliver of light.” (Traversing the Unsound Mind) Depression is an illness of the mind. It is conceivable that any other part of the body can break; you can break a bone, or cut your skin, or an organ can fail. And for each of those times of incapacitation, when someone has broken his/her arm, been injured by a sharp object, or had a heart attack, people show their support without question. It should not then be inconceivable that the brain can suffer dysfunction. Depression is one of those dysfunctions, and people should show their support for people who suffer from this or any mental illness.
Tragedies happen when individuals lose themselves to the treacherous ways of depression. The feelings of unworthiness and overwhelming hopelessness are crippling to some. Speaking from experience, when I feel depressed I have nothing but negative thoughts. Memories of everything that has gone wrong in my life, thoughts of everything that is wrong in the world, and feelings of being unable to do anything right. These thoughts play on repeat and never end. The only way to make them stop seems unthinkable, yet we hear about the people we lose to this painful way out from the void: suicide. Sadly suicide is too common a cause of death for people who suffer from this disastrous illness.
As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, this is one end of the spectrum for us. Depression is the worst of it for bipolar sufferers: the bottom of the cycle. It takes every ounce of energy in our body to make it through the dark periods. If and when the light does reveal itself, it takes time to come to grip with life in motion. When I am depressed I feel that time has slowed down, and I move in slow motion. You will likely find me in my bed for the majority of the day. And when I am awake, I move like an emotionless zombie from task to task. You won’t find me at work or socializing with friends in this state of mind. I may be able to fool some into thinking that nothing is wrong, but those that are close to me will see through the mask I have put on.
It is not always easy to acknowledge or recognize that someone is depressed, but here is a list of symptoms from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH):
- changes in appetite and weight
- sleep problems
- loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex
- withdrawal from family members and friends
- feeling useless, hopeless, excessively guilty, pessimistic or having low self-esteem
- agitation or feeling slowed down
- trouble concentrating, remembering and making decision
- crying easily, or feeling like crying but being not able to
- thoughts of suicide (which should always be taken seriously)
- a loss of touch with reality, hearing voices (hallucinations) or having strange ideas
Some people can’t relate, or don’t quite know how it feels to be depressed. I am envious of these people. However, I am empathetic to those who do know the dark side of depression. The overpowering feeling of hopelessness and being alone is a hard place to sit. Every thought is a negative one, and every action is only performed if absolutely necessary. I can remember a time when I was sitting in my room watching a show. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was smelly, and I wanted to remedy all these problems, but was lacking the will power to perform even the menial tasks of feeding and bathing myself. The mere thought of leaving my room seemed like a task that would require more energy than I had available to me. I was so tired, so distraught, that I stayed hungry, thirsty and smelly until the point when I had to use the toilet. Only the thought of inevitably soiling myself would bring me to action. Depression is a terrible mood to experience, and I wouldn’t wish the feeling of ultimate sadness on anyone.
This feeling of grief and sorrow can kill one’s soul. To some, it is unbearable to continue in these circumstances. Even if someone is not suicidal, a depressed person would welcome death over severe depression every day of the week. They may never act on the wish of death, but it’s there in their thoughts. It lingers over their lost hope, and haunts them in their deepest thoughts. A depressed person would see death as a permanent way out of the darkness; a way to find peace and tranquility. It would relieve the burden you feel you impose onto others. It is scary to think that ending one’s life would be an answer to anyone’s problem, and that’s why depression is so terrifying. It needs to be recognized, and treated professionally.
We all need more people in our lives that can understand this struggle. We need to show our support for people who lack the right combination of brain chemicals. I’d like to follow what Kevin Breel says in his Ted Talk: Confession of a Depressed Comic: “[W]e need to stop the ignorance, stop the intolerance, stop the stigma, and stop the silence, and we need to take away the taboos, take a look at the truth, and start talking, because the only way we’re going to beat a problem that people are battling alone is by standing strong together.” So please show your support and share these ideas with others. Start the discussion with your peers, and maybe we can help someone else who may need comfort.
When I experienced depression, I was advised to seek help. It was my mother who noticed before I did. Before I linked the despair I was feeling to depression, I was just a lost isolated guy who was simply surviving day to day. I have experienced everything I described in this post, and I finally made the connection when I read a list of symptoms of depression and related to every single one. I went to see some professionals who eventually diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. I talked to my family doctor who referred me to a social worker. I was then seen by a psychiatrist, and I was prescribed medications to correct my mood. I have come to realize that without these medications, I would not survive my illness.
Having experienced and fought depression for a long time, I would urge someone to seek help when they feel they need it. To someone who could potentially help a disheartened peer, show your support. There should be no shame in dealing with a time of despair, and working through the struggle to recover and prevail. Finally, I encourage anyone who reads this post to share it. Maybe you know someone who could use a friend, or a family member who needs rescuing from the emptiness. Ask the hard questions, and talk about the things that are eating away at each other’s psyche. Be there for them. And know I am here for you.