I imagine when all is black in my head and heart, I’ll write something brilliant that justifies the darkness within. But when I’m depressed like this, I can not motivate myself to create, or do anything beyond succumbing to my sadness.
This essay is simply on depression, living with it in a world that wears masks, puts on facades online and in-person, because we’re not allowed to feel bad, or at least show it. We’re allowed to feel frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, in moments, but they better not last too long, or be too intense, like when feeling angry translates into yelling. Even in anger, we’re supposed to retain our composure.
I suck at pretending. I can’t pull off the I’m OK Buddy, when I’m not. Most of you reading this are much better at wearing faces. Most people are. But depression, that feeling there is something stuck in your throat that you can’t swallow, that with every breath it feels as if you’re sighing— trying to shed the weight in your chest— makes putting on a mask particularly difficult because you’re spending so much energy just trying to breathe.
Commercials for drugs to combat depression are all over the media. They come with a list like: Using this product may make you dizzy; nauseous; stop breathing; feel even more depressed; become suicidal even if you didn’t feel that way before the drug; die. Wow. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t really need to take Lexapro to help motivate me to kill myself.
I’ve tried Prozac, a long time ago. I was allergic. It almost killed me. I’ve tried Xanax, which is by far the most popular drug for depression. All it did was make me sleepy. I’m already tired all the time.
Therapists like to talk, or for me to talk. And talk. And talk. Business 101— you make more money with continuing clients than having to find new ones. I want ACTIONABLE things to do, other than taking drugs or talking to a shrink once a week, which just makes me poorer, and even more depressed.
What is “depression” anyway? I mean, everyone gets depressed occasionally, regardless of the masks we wear. Technically, and absurdly simply, depression lies in our chemistry— dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin— these ‘happiness hormones’ are not adequately delivered to the pleasure centers of our brain. It is commonly accepted that some are born with inadequate levels of these hormones, or there is a problem with their release inside the brain. Clinical depression apparently has a genetic component, but this has yet to be proven as hard fact.
Episodes of depression effect most people when events in our life hurt us. For most, the length and severity of feeling sad is usually consummate with the event itself. Losing a loved one, or loosing the lottery generally solicits dramatically different responses. As it should. Most let their feelings of sadness dissipate, often forget them entirely over time. I’ve spent a lifetime envying these folks.
Those of us suffering from depression internalize pain. It resides in us, like a cut, or injury that just won’t heal. We hang on to our hurts, from minor slights to major loss. And whether born with an imbalance, or too many painful life events, when sadness sticks, builds up and gets thick, every day feels like wading through molasses. If depression festers long enough it will eventually kill you. It strips us of the single motivating factor that keeps us all alive through dark times… hope.
Curing depression for those who experience it, and those who have to live with people who do, is paramount. Over 90% of those who attempt or commit suicide are clinically depressed. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death worldwide, which is a shame, because so often emotionally wired people are the creators, writers, artists, innovators and builders of societies. It is believed Abraham Lincoln suffered from Depression.
The only way to help reverse, or at least halt the chemical cascade into darkness is to actualize pleasure. I realize an effect of depression is finding no joy in anything, but those of you living with that weight in your chest with most every breath KNOW that joy is attainable, even when we are consumed with sadness. That blackness is the ugly voice in our heads meant to perpetuate depression, and a LIE. A rainbow is still beautiful. A double-rainbow extraordinary. The taste of your favorite foods; a hug when we’re scared, or lonely; backrubs; creating something— these things are still pleasurable. The Pacific cresting at 40ft is still awe-striking; a field of blooming flowers still visually stunning…etc..;-}.
Living, existing as human, is all about FEELING. The good, the bad, the ugly, the wondrous, the awesome, the magnificent empowerment of feeling loved, respected, valued. The charge that comes with creation. The suffocating black hole with loss.
Are you living with Depression?
If so, SEEK and FIND joy, pleasure. NOT self-destructive behavior, like drinking or using drugs for momentary relief, as trying to bury feelings, even temporarily, will increase depression. DO things, stuff that turns you on, makes you feel— if not good— at least glad you get to see it, taste it, experience it—without regret later! ACCOMPLISHING TASKS also lights up our brain’s pleasure centers. String enough joy and accomplishments together, even simple things, and, over time, continually reminding your brain why you are choosing to live will reinforce your desire to do so.