Today I would like to talk about a topic that hits emotionally close to home: depression and Depression. I warn you in advance, these posts will get dark before the end and may be triggering to some. If you are worried it may trigger you, please consider leaving.
I would like to state, as I will be wont to do with topics such as this, that I am by no means an expert or a professional on this particular topic. I am speaking from personal experience and opinion. Please do not take my words as any kind of gospel – form your own opinions on these topics and take whatever steps you feel necessary to address them. On the topic of depression especially, I strongly encourage anyone who is severely depressed or suicidal to talk to others and seek council if they are suffering to that extent.
Firstly, why am I listing two words with the only difference being the capitalization of the first letter? I do this to distinguish between moments, even prolonged ones, of emotional sorrow – and a serious condition with long-lasting ramifications. If that’s not clear, perhaps think of it as the difference between telling someone, “I love you,” and telling someone, “I Love you.” The capitalization of “Depression” is meant to illustrate a difference of magnitude between the two.
So, what do I mean by “depression” then? By example, depression is feeling sad all day because you received a notice informing you that you didn’t get the job. And depression is being grumpy and moody for a few days because you found out your crush is seeing someone, or just does not like you. It’s like a storm – it blows in and casts a pall over your life for a “relatively” brief period of time. That could be a few hours, a few days, or perhaps even a few weeks, depending on the cause. The important point is that “depression” has both a cause and an ending – you’re sad or upset because ‘X’, ‘Y’, or ‘Z’ happened, you process it, and eventually recover.
Depression is a whole ‘nother beast, in both intensity and duration. Unlike “depression”, “Depression” may not have a clear or singular cause. There may be many causes that trigger the feeling. Additionally, its impact on your life is further-reaching than depression. In depression, you may be upset about your love life and question if you’ll ever find someone who will make you happy. In many ways, that’s a natural and healthy reaction to rejection. Depression, however, is more like feeling that you will never find love, or question if you deserve to be loved.
To take an aside for a moment…if that thought resonates strongly with you – yes, I do think you deserve to be loved. And no, you don’t have to do anything special to deserve love. I wanted to say that before moving on.
But to go back to the topic at hand, I described depression as a storm – it blows through and affects your life for a time. By comparison, Depression is a season – it is longer-lasting and sets the tone for all the storms that descend upon your life. An event that would be manageable under normal circumstances becomes unbearable during Depression. And unlike a calendar season, a season of Depression does not have a definite ending. We do not have a date for when everything will get better. We cannot merely weather the worst until spring returns. The storm, and the season, must be challenged and overcome. But the methods on how to do that are something I will discuss in detail in a later post.
I would like to give one final explanation of “Depression”, one that was given to me at one point as an example of what it feels like to cope with any severe or chronic mental (or physical) illness. It is called the Spoon Theory. (No, I’m not making that up – it’s really called that).
So what is it? Rather than attempt to redefine it myself, I will quote the Wikipedia article on the topic, with one small spelling correction, below:
The spoon theory is a model used by some disabled people and people with chronic illness to describe their everyday living experience when their disability or illness results in a reduced amount of energy available for productive tasks. Spoons are an intangible unit of measurement used to track how much energy a person has throughout a given day. Each activity “costs” a certain number of spoons, which might not be replaced until the next day. A person who runs out of spoons loses the ability to do anything other than rest. One of the tenets of the spoon theory is that disabled or ill people must plan their activities to ensure that every day is manageable, while healthy people have a “never-ending supply of spoons” and thus never need to worry about running out. Because healthy people do not feel the impact of spending spoons, they may not realize that chronically ill or disabled people’s considerations include mundane tasks such as bathing and getting dressed.
I’m a fan of using this as a description of what it’s like to live with Depression, or any chronic illness. It illustrates the heavy toll of living with such a condition, as well as the weariness that accompanies managing it. And it does so in clear, tangible terms. A healthy person might have a hundred spoons work with in a day, or perhaps a thousand. Someone who is afflicted may only have half that, or even less. It serves to show that people who are Depressed are not simply wallowing in negativity – they may just not have enough energy to do everything that’s needed to get themselves out of that situation.
So why spend so much time defining and describing “depression” and “Depression”? In part, I wanted to share my thoughts on a subject I view of high importance. I feel that discussing topics such as these builds knowledge and encourages compassion in our interactions with those personally involved. And the world can always use more compassion. But I also wanted to talk about this because I have a personal story to tell.
I have been Depressed. I have been, at times, severely and suicidally Depressed. And I wanted to share my story, rather than hide it for fear of being judged or misunderstood. Because I think it’s important to share my story – because I think when sorrow is shared, when stories are told, the pain becomes easier to manage. I want to share it because I believe that my story could serve as a lesson to others, a chance to learn. And it would please me greatly if you would continue to read and hear my story. Please check in next time for part two of my discussion of depression and Depression.