Depression is as painful and insidious as a chronic physical illness. If you don’t understand or care about depression, I guess you should at least know this.

It’s crippled me on some nights during the past several weeks. I’ve been intimately familiar with the symptoms for at least seven years, but I’m surprised at times to find that I’m still afflicted and that it renders me nearly helpless. In an online forum I was reading, a person commented that it’s like using an electrical appliance that suddenly loses all power. The concept of disconnection is what really rings true about that comparison. Whatever kind of spiritual or mental energy powers us through our lives–that is what gets lost when depression comes in. It can come unexpectedly, when I’m doing chores or getting home from work, or even when I’m feeling positive and excited about things I have planned. Depression means sudden paralysis, and a sense that everything inside is dark and empty except for the pain.

Because it’s awful and inexplicable, it’s difficult to talk about with other people. I don’t want to burden somebody who doesn’t know how to help. And so the illness becomes self-reinforcing as it nudges me deeper into isolation. I tell myself to “just get up and do something,” but anything I might do seems (from a distance) like it would be a worthless distraction—even the things I might have felt excited about only a few minutes ago. Any small thing that typically brings me pleasure now seems pathetic. I’m disconnected from everything I formerly knew about myself, because the message revealed (however falsely) by depression is that I, and my life, mean nothing and are nothing. In a state like that it’s impossible to feel worthy of anyone’s attention. When I went online to search for support groups, I even worried that other sufferers wouldn’t take me seriously because I have a good life and am not totally debilitated by this. The critic inside me says, “Shouldn’t I know by now how to make this go away on my own?”

There are other manifestations: sadness for no particular reason, irritability, inability to sleep even when I’m tired, and so on. I have my own checklist; I’ve learned a little bit more with each go-round. I recognize when something needs to be done even if the idea of reaching out, or changing my habits, seems impossible or distasteful. It’s hard to know where to begin, but the search for that vital reconnection is too important to ignore.

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1 Comment

  1. Brittany Dockter

     /  March 20, 2009

    Hey Kristen, Have to say I’ve struggled with depression on and off since I was 15, not as bad now but it still sneaks up on me like it has today sending me into downward spirals. The only way I’ve found to manage it was by seeing a homeopathic type doctor or nutritionist. I’ve gone through about every antidepressant in the book and they only work short term, but when I am taking the right vitamins and eating well it really seems to help. Sorry you’re not feeling too hot.

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