Depression. It’s a disease.
Depression is complicated because it carries a stigma, it’s difficult to identify as well as it can be chronic. Depressed people often cover it up very well making it hard to diagnose and even harder to treat.
If you get the flu, you take a day or two off, people feel bad for you and sometimes they even offer to help. You then recuperate and things get back to “normal.” This is an acute illness- it’s temporary.
Chronic disease doesn’t work like that. You may know someone who has diabetes or arthritis. This affects a person on a daily basis. It can be controlled, but despite the most vigilant monitoring and treatment, it often flares and rears it’s ugly head demanding attention.
Depression cycles in a similar manor but is harder to detect. A physical disease, like chronic pain or hypertension, can be quantified. We can ask people their pain rating, check lab work, or obtain vital signs for a physical disease. Physiological disease can only be qualified. You can ask a depressed person how they feel and they may say “good/bad/really down” but there is no definitive blood test or scan to make it relative.
The other difficulty with depression is that most everyone has experienced depression at some time in their life and so it’s easy for people to think “you’ll be OK, just move on like I did.” What is not recognized is that not all types of depressions are the same therefore there is no universal treatment. Most people have felt situational depression which can occur as a result of an event: the loss of a loved one, a friend moving away, an argument with someone close. This depression is different than chronic depression, as you can identify the cause and you will improve with time and support.
Chronic depression, like chronic physical disease, never goes away. Typically there is not an identifiable cause which can be eliminated. Chronic depression is always sitting in the background of life. You continue to function at a normal capacity while you experience good and bad days. Other times it starts building up and reminds you it can be life altering. During these times, it changes how you can function. It changes your energy, your mood, your desires and your ability to cope.
To make matters worse, most people who have chronic depression also have anxiety. The anxiety limits a depressed person from asking for help. It starts a spiral effect. You feel depressed, you know if you express your need for attention or physical help you may get better, but your anxiety tells you not to bother anyone else’s day. This leads to a feeling of despair and loneliness. You continue to go down the “I don’t want to be anyone else’s problem” road and it’s a dead end.
Now is the time to stop reading if you are going to judge me. The rest of this becomes personal.
I hit my rock bottom about 9 months ago.
At that time I experienced multiple big life changes. I was involved in arguments, personal conflict, illness, loss, and stress.
I was done. I had nothing left to give, which is a problem with 2 kids and a nursing job.
I cried everyday and thought about how life would be better for everyone if I wasn’t around. I was not suicidal, but I was depressed and lonely.
This was a scary time.
I decided to seek counseling and found that everyone was very supportive of this decision. It was the best decision I have ever made on behalf of my well-being.
Since then I’ve learned a lot about myself and chronic depression. I have identified my triggers and ways to avoid and treat my depression. I have accepted that I must ask for help. I recognize that “pushing through” my negative feelings leaves scars on my psyche that may never heal. Lastly, I now know that by trying not to “bother” anyone actually creates a negative environment for everyone around me.
I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my depression. It is what makes me “me.” It’s an obstacle at times but it only defines me when I allow it to. I have accepted that I am being negligent if I pretend like my feelings do not exist. It is my duty to ask for help or take a “personal” day off when needed. This is part of the treatment of my chronic disease, no different than insulin or blood pressure medicine.
Those of you surrounded by people with depression, I urge you to ask questions. Ask how your friend is doing. Ask every time you can. She will lie. Look for signs. Your friend who always sends a birthday card, who is always ready for a night out, loves celebrations, is always on time…when these things change, she may be depressed but too far down the spiral to ask for help. Offer help. Tell her what a good mom, friend or wife she is. Tell her she will have you as a friend no matter what is going on in her life. Don’t assume she knows these things.
To those of you who know me personally, you don’t need to become over analytical. Despite having chronic depression, I am in a good place. I now ask for help. I am thankful I went to counseling. Even on good days I utilize the tools I’ve acquired over the past 9 months to be more self-aware.
For those of you with depression, hang in there. You are not alone. So many of us suffer in silence.
Each day is a roller coaster but don’t ignore the ups and downs. Try to surround yourself with positive people who love you unconditionally. If you can’t get out of the funk, make a change. Ask for someone to assist you in identifying what type of change may help you. And mostly, know you are enough! Just you being “you” is enough for those who value and love you. The extra things you do or provide are far less important than you being present.
Love yourself because you are someone’s “everything”❤