Depression can be caused by many things, hormone imbalances, the lack of daylight hours in winter, illness, an experience such as physical and emotional loss. But the problem is unless you’ve ever experienced it, you don’t understand the enormity of the situation.
Warning: under the cut you may find triggers and uncomfortable reminders.
I have had depression for most of my adult life. The events that set the clinical diagnosis in motion were the deaths of 5 people I loved in the space of 12 months. One of those being my mother. That kind of grief overwhelms you to the point that it never truly leaves. I still cry on certain anniversaries and I probably always will, even though this was eleven years ago. But the truth is mine started in adolescence and has never truly gone away.
I have suffered through added bouts of depression because of the loss of jobs, a decrease in health, the feeling of never being able to get to where I want to be, the loss of family ties (not through death but through coming out), the struggle to get my fiancee here with me, the pain I feel on a daily basis waking up, seasonal affective disorder, the hormones that my endometriosis sets so completely off balance. The truth is at one point or another they have all, individually, led to me sobbing my heart out. Or as is the case tonight on the train ride home, a combination of those factors have set it off.
Depression isn’t something that you can just get over. It’s something that you live with day in day out. Yes, for a lot of people, medications and therapy do the trick and they come out of that fog, sometimes to never return to it again, but for some of us this just isn’t the case. We go through what bouts of depression. At times the fog lifts and we can have a respite, but it comes back at some point. It can be the smallest thing that sets the cascade back down again and it is a spiral from which there seems no end.
You don’t feel like you can confide in anyone, not because you don’t want to, but because you feel like you’re a burden or you think they’ll see it as you moaning. And so you believe that you are a burden and that is how people see you. Which causes you to clam up and not to talk to people which only makes the depression worse. Something I know I’ve done a lot of over the past few years. The funny thing is, talking about it alleviates some of the pressure, but the making that first step is the part that causes the anxiety.
Depression can lead to self-harming. If I was the sort of person who could, I’d show you the physical scars from my youth. The only ways I knew how to get rid of pain when I was younger were cutting and controlling my food. The scars that anorexia and bulimia left behind, however, are mental and not easily displayed. The scars from cutting my legs are a constant reminder of the pain of the past. I would take the razor blade and dig into my legs, watching the blood seep out and into the water of the bath and there I would watch it with fascination, convinced that this moment of pain was healing the deeper emotional pain. The truth is, that neither the eating disorders or the cutting removed the pain, they just gave me something else to focus on for a little while.
When asked by others how we feel, it’s often easier to say ‘fine’ or ‘I’ll live’ than it is to open up, because we don’t want to put our burdens on other people and become the burden we fear we already are and we don’t want to be laughed at. Sometimes though, it takes a special person to look behind the words and say, “No, tell me what’s going on.” To keep pushing until we cave and let the flood gates open, before we realise that we are not alone and it’s the depression making us feel that we are.
If you get the feeling that someone you know is not okay but is telling you they are or is not quite their normal selves, send them a message, write them a letter, pick up the phone, if for no other reason at all than to let them know that you love them and that they mean something to you. You never know, you may just make the fog lighten, just a little bit.