Everyone has the gloomy days where you stay in bed, where you are you feel blue. Whether it be from having a bad day at work or a fight with a loved one, it’s a common occurrence. You can’t go through life without some sort of sadness. Depression is much more than sadness. Most people probably don’t realize there are more than one type of depression. Many group clinical depression with feeling blue and that’s harmful to people who have the illness. There is still a lot of stigma related to mental illness and I think that’s why people try to pass off all depression as having a bad day. I wish my depression were just bad days.
There hasn’t been a time in my adult life that I haven’t been depressed in some form or another. I have heard the phrase, just snap out of it, more times than I wish to share. Many don’t understand how one day I can be upbeat and the next I’m not. They expect me to be on 24/7. If I were to describe my depression, it’s like living in the upside down in the tv series Stranger Things. The world I view is entirely different than most. I live in constant dysthymia. There isn’t a day when I don’t have at least a mild case of depression. I can go through these moments of low grade depression from weeks to months. Deep depression is always close to me and it doesn’t take a lot for me to spiral out of control.
I use to be able to bounce back from the deep depression but since my Mom died in 2012 I haven’t been able to. Most of my days are spent near the bottom of the barrel. In the past, my major depressive episodes usually lead to being hospitalized. Within a year or so, I was always about to move forward. I haven’t been so fortunate during the last seven years.
I have what you call major depressive disorder. My blue days don’t go away. The symptoms from this depression are usually severe. The major symptom is having zero energy. It’s like being cemented to ground. It feels impossible to move and doing so is like walking through quicksand. Depression can manifest physically as well. When I’m really depressed I feel lethargic. It’s like having the flu without the chills, temperature or nasal symptoms. Everything is dark and I live in a sky is falling state. I wouldn’t wish this form of depression on my worst enemy. These symptoms can usually last for weeks. I will withdraw from everything, especially anything to do with the outside world. I stop eating and oversleep. Light is not my friend and my apartment becomes a prison cell. The deeper depression (especially if it’s related to an event) the more I lose all sense of reality. I get tunnel vision and can only see the darkness, and I do whatever I can to stay away from the dangers of the light. I suffer greatly and often.
I also have treatment-resistant depression, meaning my doctor has tried multiple medicines and there’s been very little relief. Imagine living with depressed for years and have little to no relief. It will cause you to go mad. In the last year, I have been hospitalized twice. I have been close to needing hospitalization even more times this last year. I also suffer from PTSD and anxiety, which just adds to the severity of depression. It all can lead to a lot of suffering. I’m so desperate for relief. I take seven (well until today) psychiatric meds with little relief. I’m starting to consider alternative treatments like ECT and ketamine treatments.
To understand depression it’s important to discuss the various forms of depression. One of the most widely forms is Postpartum Depression. It’s when significant hormonal shifts affect a woman’s mood. The depression can be onset during or after pregnancy. The symptoms can range anywhere from a persistent lethargy and sadness that requires medical treatment to postpartum psychosis, which is a condition in which the mood episode is accompanied by confusion, hallucinations or delusions.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is when someone experiences depression during the winter the winter months but not during all the other months of the year. It’s believed that SAD is triggered by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body. Light entering through the eyes influences this rhythm, and any seasonal variation in night/day pattern can cause a disruption leading to depression.
Bipolar depression is an aspect of being bipolar. Many people think bipolar is riding the highs but usually that leads to a crash into a deep depression. When you’re in the low phase, you’ll have the symptoms of major depression. Not as commonly known, people with bipolar II disorder do not experience true manic episodes, where their mood and energy levels are so high that it causes trouble with work and socializing and may cause psychosis. However, this does not make bipolar II disorder less severe than bipolar I disorder. In bipolar II disorder, the depressive episodes are similar to those in bipolar I disorder and cause significant disruption to the person’s daily life for an extended time. You occasionally have high moments like with bipolar but they aren’t usually as extreme or long lasting. Often the number of episodes are not as frequent as well.
If you experience depression that lasts long than a two week period then you might have Major Depressive Disorder. Symptoms include depressed mood, lack of interest, changes in weight and sleep, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, poor concentration and thoughts of death/suicide. Also called clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave. Clinical depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
The next form of depression is Atypical Depression. It’s defined by the ability to feel better temporarily in response to a positive life event, plus any two of the following criteria: excessive sleep, overeating, a feeling of heaviness in the limbs and a sensitivity to rejection. Those with atypical depression are also likely to have a history of social phobia, avoidant personalities, and a history of body dysmorphic disorder.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) produce similar symptoms to premenstrual syndrome but those related to mood are more pronounced. Symptoms may include extreme fatigue, mood swings, bouts of crying, irritability, inability to concentrate and feeling sad/hopeless/self-critical.
Situational depression is when you are having trouble managing a stressful event in your life, such as a traumatic event or change in a person’s life. Doctors call this is a “stress response syndrome.” It often resolves in time, and talking about the problem can ease the recovery process. Situational depression stems from a struggle to come to terms with dramatic life changes. Recovery is possible once an individual comes to terms with a new situation. For instance, following the death of a parent, it may take a while before a person can accept that a family member is no longer alive. Until acceptance, they may feel unable to move on with their life.
The next form of depression is Persistent Depressive Disorder. Dysthymia refers to a type of chronic depression present for more days than not and lasts longer than two years. It can be mild, moderate or severe. Some experience a mild, low-grade depression. They might not even realize that they are depressed. Everyone will experience periodic feelings of depression in response to sad or stressful life events but feeling constantly depressed could mean you have persistent depressive disorder. You’re normal level of mood is never at the typical flatline of most. You usually live in the land of inbetween the normal and deep depression levels. Occasionally you will reach the normal flatline of most, the highs and lows but usually you live in a moderate level of depression.
The last form of depression is Treatment-resistant Depression. Those suffering from this condition have been treated for depression but symptoms haven’t improved with the use use of medication. With treatment-resistant depression, standard treatments aren’t enough. There are also somatic (nondrug) therapies, including transcranial magnetic stimulation—which targets nerve cells in the region of the brain involved in mood control and depression—and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which induces changes in brain chemistry to help reverse symptoms of TRD.
My goal is to educate others in order to elevate the stigma that leads to those with mental illness from getting the help they need. Often times mental illness is treated as a myth. A condition that doesn’t exist. If others can get past the blues so can everyone else. Sadly it doesn’t work that way. There is no switch to turn off. There is also no cure to depression. You just have to treat the symptoms the best you can.
Those with mental illness deserve love, care and support. Unconditional love is something not often give to those with mental illness. People treat you like a pirah. They don’t understand when you have to cancel a date or when you can’t get out of bed. If they are forced to live life like the rest, then you should be able to do so well. Many don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything at all. You don’t need to have the perfect words to be there for support. All you need to provide is an ear to listen and a soft shoulder to cushion their troubles. It’s better to stumble all over your words and fear saying the wrong thing, than saying nothing at all. You reaching out could be the difference between living and dying. Another common misconception is that those who suffer with mental illness can ask for help. So many are lost in the disease and have lost hope in asking for help. The mental health system makes it different to heal and many have tried multiple attempts to manage the symptoms with no luck at all.
We might not be able to verbalize the words help but often times we are sending the SOS but no one is paying attention. This could be withdrawing and isolating from the people they love. We must start to identify the symptoms in others and take action. If you wait for the person to ask for help, it might be too late. If you know someone suffering (especially if they are suicidal) it’s life and death to take them serious.
Here are some warning signs. If someone is showing signs of one or more it might be a good idea to check in there wellbeing. You don’t need to have solutions. Just be there. You don’t even need to confront them on this. Just be there and be consistent. Don’t give up on the person either.
- Isolating, not leaving your home
- Pulling away from the ones you loved.
- Not answering calls/text/emails
- Cancelling repeatedly various activities
- Staying in bed for long periods. Sleeping too much or not at all.
- Having a messy home. Overflowing trash can and sink. Plates and pizza boxes littering your living room.
- Poor personal grooming. No showering is a big one or changing clothes.
- Loss of interest. Nothing brings you enjoyment or fun.
- Not eating or overeating. Sometimes both.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Hopelessness, helplessness, guilt
This is just the start of this list, what I usually do. Each person is different. I would say if you notice a big change in your loved ones behavior and actions then something could be going on. Especially if they are hitting multiple warning signs. The key is being there for them. We don’t usually want solutions or advice, we just need to know that we aren’t alone in this world. Alone with our pain and suffering.