Clinical depression is a serious mental illness. I don’t think anyone sane would argue the point. And despite widespread acknowledgement and sympathy for sufferers, there remains for most people a very real lack of understanding of this illness. If you are lucky enough never to have suffered through an episode of clinical depression, it is incredibly hard to understand exactly how it can affect one.
Before I launch any further into my diatribe, it is important to draw a distinction between someone who is mildly depressed and someone who is suffering from true clinical depression. Here’s how wikipedia defines it: “… a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The term “depression” is used in a number of different ways. It is often used to mean this syndrome but may refer to other mood disorders or simply to a low mood. [Clinical Depression] is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person’s family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health”
As someone who has and is dealing with this illness, I believe I have some insight into the thought processes associated with these feelings and my hope is that by sharing some of them, people may become more sensitive to the signs from loved-ones and friends around them who may be silently suffering through similar situations.
Firstly, it is important to understand that a depressed person is absolutely incapable of “snapping out of it”. It’s hard to explain, but your mind keeps circling back to feelings of hopelessness and as
much as you tell yourself to think positive and be happy, there’s another voice that keeps asking “Why?”. In fact the logic is perfectly sound, which is perhaps why it’s so hard to dismiss. You think to yourself “Today was full of misery and each moment was a struggle. Yesterday was the same – why would tomorrow or next week or even next year be any different?”.
Another key aspect is self-imposed isolation. You know you’re depressed. You become sensitive to the fact that your constant negativity is annoying to people. Honestly, who wants to spend time
with someone who is always gloomy and feeling down? And so you begin to withdraw from people. Better to suffer in silence than to tell a friend who’s probably heard it all before a hundred times and who will no doubt mouth the same platitudes that people do in these situations. Well-intentioned sure, but you’ve heard it before, and you know it doesn’t help.
Soon, your self-esteem is gone. The cycle has come full circle and you start to believe the things your head keeps telling you. You’re a miserable, useless git with nothing to offer anyone and no hope of ever finding joy again. It seems pointless to try. The effort required to get up and make food becomes too much. You can no longer see the point in doing anything, since nothing relieves the pain and misery you feel. Getting out of bed seems pointless. Eating seems equally pointless.
The scary thing that most people don’t realise is that for males aged 20-34 the second most common cause of death (after accidental causes) is suicide. For men 35 – 40 it’s the 3rd most common cause after cancer and heart disease. Many of these suicides seem to come out of the blue, because the clinically depressed are excellent at hiding their condition. Or perhaps society is just bad at recognising the signs.
So if you notice a friend or loved-one starting to withdraw socially or if they start posting status updates like “Someone please shoot me, lol” or making seemingly offhand remarks about suicide or depression, it might be a good idea to look a little deeper and find out if they’re ok. You never know what people are really going through.