Many don’t understand depression partly because it’s hard to imagine – but also, perhaps, because they don’t want to understand it.
When I am in a depressed state I just tell everyone I am okay, or I don’t feel good. I don’t tell anyone I am depressed, because depression has a bad reputation. Some might say you’re just weak or negative.
When I am well, which is most of the time, I am happy, empathetic, curious, motivated, open and friendly.
When depression takes over I turn into the opposite I enter a negative state of mind. It’s like falling into a deep dark hole and having no ladder to climb to help you get out of it. You get trapped in the darkness feeling cold and numb. I turn into an evil person and sometimes I say or do things to hurt others, the dark ugly side of me takes over.
Depression is utterly isolating.
At my darkest moments, I isolate myself to avoid showing anyone my ugly side. Depression affects not just the mind but also the body, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, or I sleep too much, I start to stumble when I walk, or become unable to walk in a straight line. I am more clumsy and accident-prone. In depression you become, in your head, two-dimensional – like a drawing rather than a living, breathing creature. You cannot conjure your actual personality, which you can remember only vaguely, in a theoretical sense.
In a serious state of depression, you become a sort of half-living ghost.
There is a heavy, leaden feeling in your chest, rather as when someone you love dearly has died; but no one has – except, you. When you look in the mirror you see only dead eyes. There is no spark. No joy. No hope. You wonder how you will manage to exist another day.
Inside, there is a dark storm.
Even if nothing was wrong before the episode, everything seems wrong when it descends. Suddenly, no one seems loving or lovable. Everything is irritating. Work is boring and unbearable. Any activity takes many times more effort, what was challenging feels overwhelming; what was sad feels unbearable; what felt joyful feels pleasureless or, at best, a fleeting drop of pleasure in an ocean of pain.
Major depression feels like intense pain that can’t be identified in any particular part of the body.
It’s more painful than any physical pain I’ve ever experienced. And NO-ONE can see it. People seem far away, on the other side of a glass bubble. No one seems to understand or care, and people seem insincere.
I could write a book on how depression feels like, however, there are positive things about depression, I suppose. It has given me inspiration in ways I wouldn’t have without suffering depression and feeling this much pain, I would never have examined my life closely enough to become a writer. And above all, depression, in nearly all cases, sooner or later lifts, and you become “normal” again.
When people try to get me to look at the bright side, be grateful, change my thoughts, they never succeed. It’s difficult to describe all of this in a way that someone who’s never experienced it can make sense of it.
It’s not possible for anyone to understand what it truly feels like to have clinical depression unless you’ve suffered from it yourself. I wish people would realize that depression is far, far more severe than just “having the blues” or feeling “sad”. It is a soul-sucking, debilitating illness, one that is so severe that it claims nearly a million lives a year worldwide. So, if you know someone who has it, don’t just tell them to “pull themselves together” or to simply “get over it”.
Instead, listen to them. Support them. And most importantly, be their friend.