With all of the misinformation flying around the inter webs today in the aftermath of yesterday’s news, I feel like there are some things that need clarification. And I’m laying it out here because we need to talk about it.
A few weeks ago, twice in the same day, friends privately messaged me complimenting me and asking what it is that I do to keep my outlook so positive. I was touched. First, I had to ask if they were kidding, and then when they said they were serious, I was deeply moved. It told me that I was doing something right. What is not apparent is that I’m a lifelong depression ‘manager.’ I call it that because there is no ‘cure,’ or ‘fix.’ There is only management. The public needs to understand that, like diabetes, depression is a failure in a complex series of chemical reactions. It is not ‘sadness’ in the general sense of the word. It can be temporary, life long, severe, mild, moderate, but the ONE thing it is NOT is a choice.
Before I was diagnosed (at 24) I felt a consistent battery of symptoms: sensitive to external stimuli (e.g. noise), lethargy, lack of focus, emotional confusion, memory loss, irritability, lack of appetite, obsessive compulsive disorder. It was a constant barrage of neurological activity. The causes are not as well understood as is the failure. So, when you look at a person whose aspect is so grey, so defeated and think to yourself, ‘if only they knew…,’ remember that they probably do know, intellectually, but their body chemistry won’t let them FEEL it.
Imagine being locked up in a room with no windows and doors, and you are being chased by a swarm of bees. THAT is how I describe it. You are trapped in a huge volume of stimuli that you cannot escape. And I am a moderate case. Imagine a severe case. When finally I found the treatments that worked for me (and I was lucky that I grew up in a medical household), my life changed dramatically. I could learn. I felt liberated. I was free from the bees. I owned it. It no longer owned me.
So people, when you talk to someone who is truly depressed, don’t say things like ‘Oh, what do you have to be depressed about?’ because they really don’t have an answer. They need coping skills, and possibly medication and education. But they DO NOT need sympathy, or judgment. No one is more aware of the damage it can do than the person running from the bees.
Post script: I have not had to take SSRIs since my father passed away 6 years ago. That is an important piece of information. I have found a management process that works for me. It’s not the same for everyone.