Friday, 22 February 2008

What's it like?

A comment on Lake Cocytus' blog by Medically Brunette has me thinking about how to convey to those who have never experienced depression what it is like. She wrote of her frustration with a friend who suffers from depression; Shrink wrote of the issues he faces with people who come to him wanting to be made to feel happy again, and of his inability to treat "unhappiness" as opposed to depression.

Depression has, in my opinion, become an overused word. For myself, I am very aware of when I feel low or sad or unhappy, and of how different it is to feeling depressed. I've written more than enough in this blog of my experiences of depression; I'll endeavour not to repeat that here. As it happens, yesterday I was putting together some information for the pupil who sent me the email I wrote about yesterday. He is going to read this information; his school are requiring that he writes a personal response to it. So I was searching yesterday for information to give him. Alongside the statistics and the factual information about what depression is, what causes it, how it can be treated etc, I really wanted to provide him with some insights into what it is like to experience depression. I know it is different for everyone, and so I have tried to provide several accounts. Here are some which stood out for me.

The excellent DIPEx site has personal accounts from those who have experienced a variety of medical conditions. A newish addition is accounts of depression.

One contributor made, for me, very powerful comparisons between his experience of depression and his encounter with cancer:
Four or five years ago I was diagnosed as having cancer, and I made comparisons between having cancer and having depression. And cancer is [pause] there is so much help and people are so kind, particularly the professionals because they are geared up. They know the emotional problems people have. And there's a lot of backup. And I've received kindnesses beyond words [pause]. But with depression that's a different ball game really. And [pause] its…The two are so different. One is at one end of the scale, and one at the other. It's the loneliness and the feeling of being utterly down and out with depression. With cancer you can say, "Oh, I've got to have a treatment, lets see if that does any good.” And there is a sort of progression. But being involved inside the depression, you can't see the wood for the trees, and you depend on people close to you to point the things out that you are unaware of. So you are sort of running in blinkers with depression, which isn't the case with cancer. And I've found that people, not everybody, but lots of people involved in helping people with depression can say quite hurtful things. And that you're in a pretty low ebb when you've got it anyway, so I've found that much more difficult.

The depths of depression, being unable to think and reason, were among my own blackest times:
The deep depression, I feel physiologically different, I have this sort of pressure around my brain, you know I feel that someone's got their hands inside there. I feel confused, I don't function properly.

This account resonated for me with my own reasons for not killing myself:
Because I just thought I can't bear another day of feeling the way I feel, and thinking there is no end to it. And I think what stopped me was that I couldn't figure out....I mean I'd worked out how I could kill myself. You know, I knew I'd got enough tablets of various sorts in the house for me to easily overdose. And if I did it just after the kids had gone to school, I would certainly been gone by the time they came. But I didn't want them to find me, and I couldn't work out how to do it without them being the ones that would find me. That I didn't want to happen.

Finally (for now), a well written account of a struggle with depression in the aftermath of Katrina is found here.

Why post this? Well, maybe someone stumbling here might find something which gives them a glimpse into what it is like to struggle with depression.


missbliss said...

Lewis Walpole also compares cancer with depression (he watched his wife die from cancer while he was depressed, I believe). I;ve found his book very good for rationalising after the depression has lifted. I'm always trying to not fall back into it.

I always say I can't explain it, and I can't hope to understand someone who is going through it because thinking about and trying to understand depresssion requires rational thought. For me, depression was characterised by a total absence of rational thought. Therefore, it's impossible to understand it when you're through, just as it is impossible to understand anything while you're in the midst of it.

(I wrote about my experience too, here: - it's the closest I can come to explaining it)

Disillusioned said...

Thanks, missbliss

I agree abut depression equalling an absence of rational thought - although for me this was scarily combined with an awareness, most of the time, of my lost capacity for rational thought - a truly terrifying experience.