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What you need to know if you live with clinical depression

Apr. 28, 2017
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I didn’t see any of it coming-- the hospital trips and visits to my doctors, the medications and their adverse side effects, a spirit decaying. I guess you could say I was doing pretty well before then: I was young, holding a Bachelor’s Degree, working in the city of San Francisco, and on my own. But on the inside, my body was fighting a severe mental illness, which threw a curveball in my life, leaving friends and family clueless.     

Major depression (also known as clinical depression) is “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest,” as defined by the Mayo Clinic--a nonprofit dedicated to clinical practice and education. While isolated symptoms may seem familiar, clinical depression is a mental illness, a far cry from the downs of life all individuals experience due to break-ups, the loss of a loved one, unemployment, etcetera. This depression is a part of my diagnosis. 

As a writer, I find that words alone cannot describe the intense state of agony that I endured during the early stages of my depression. I was down most of the time and was extremely guilty that I could not get myself to feel happy after much effort. I was bombarded with anxiety of being labeled as negative and weak, so I tried to maintain a put together persona. Tasks that were so easy to carry out before, like taking a shower and cleaning up, suddenly became extremely difficult to accomplish. Also, I stayed in the bed most of the day battling negative thoughts of suicide and hopelessness. I think that was the hardest part of it, feeling like nothing was going to change and I was going to be stuck in that situation forever. And the numbness: losing pleasure for life itself, including the people I loved and the things I loved to do like write and sing, was super frustrating and made me feel nonhuman. My goals and desires suddenly disappeared. I literally felt reduced to nothing.

Now, a long year later (emphasis on long), after medication, prayer, therapy, and the support of those around me, life is beginning to gain some of its color back. I’m taking a lesser dose of my medication, considering the option of visiting my psychiatrist on a less frequent basis, and even working on personal, creative projects once again amid managing the daily demands of life. 

Still, there are days I ask myself if my illness is real. And I’m not alone. Family members and even some psychiatrists take on this mentality. But with 300 million people displaying similar symptoms globally according to the Word Health Organization, the proof is in the pudding: clinical depression is not imaginary, and it deserves to be treated--especially seeing as it is a leading cause of suicide for 15 to 29-year-olds. 

Because clinical depression affects your mood and thoughts, battling it is often difficult, and sometimes medication is needed to get you to a place where you feel strong enough to respond to your depression with deliberateness and intentionality. To be honest, sometimes I don't want to respond. Sometimes I’d rather say screw it. That’s what I did several days ago. I was in my bed, frustrated and fed up with life. I was extremely disappointed with myself for being there again, cowering beneath my comforter, feeling defeated and hopeless. I’m done, I said to myself. I can’t do this. 

But the beauty is that every time you make the decision to live, to try again, you see things in yourself you never imagined, and you climb over piles of obstacles you never knew you could. And you become that much stronger. For instance, now getting out the bed is much easier. I’m able to shop and cook for myself, and initiate time to spend with family and friends, as well as personal time with myself. I don’t have it all figured out, but I am stronger, and plan on taking small steps, day by day.

If you are battling with clinical depression, know this:

  1. You are not alone.
  2. It is not your fault. Just like you wouldn’t blame someone for getting cancer, you shouldn’t blame yourself for having clinical depression.
  3. It can get better--I would know! 
  4. You may be down far more often than you are up, and it’s important to surround yourself with people who will allow you to be honest during your episode. You may be able to alleviate how you feel, but you can’t control your mood, so being able to talk honestly about your feelings is important.   

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” 

Stephen Fry

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please do not act on them! Someone is waiting to talk to you at the National Suicide Prevention Healthline. Call 1-800-273-8255, their line is open 24/7.