I am going to begin a series of posts on My Depression Connection about the individual symptoms one can experience when suffering from depression. We have all seen the lists of depression symptoms. Here I wish to delve into them one by one to talk about what it is like to experience these manifestations of depression from personal experience. A medical list simply doesn't say much about what it is like to live with these sometimes debilitating symptoms. I will be exploring the causes, what it feels like, what it looks like behaviorally to others, and also provide some strategies for coping with these individual symptoms. But I need your help. As I go through these facets of symptoms from my own experience I will be asking you questions so that you can help others as they tackle these same challenges. Sound good?
Let us begin with the symptom of "hopelessness."
What is hopelessness and what causes it?
My personal definition for hopelessness is when you feel that nothing you do will matter or help to improve your life. It can be a feeling of being trapped in a particular life situation for which you see no choices. It can be caused by having multiple losses or stressors. It is my opinion that that the feeling of hopelessness can also be caused by early childhood traumas where you were powerless over life circumstances and then as you got older that feeling of powerlessness continued despite the greater opportunities and choices you may have. Hopelessness leads to helplessness where we no longer feel capable of making decisions to grow or change.
What is your personal definition of hopelessness and what do you feel is the cause? What does hopelessness feel like?
I have had many times in my life where I felt hopeless. I have felt this during times when I was faced with great financial difficulties as when I was a teen working sometimes three jobs just to get by. And if one bad thing happened like an unexpected bill or an appliance breaking down, it was a major catastrophe. I remember struggling to work and go to college and wondering, "What am I doing this for?" I felt hopeless to wish for a better future because it seemed all I did was try to keep the status quo of survival. In the end I persevered and kept going to school and eventually I did get my degrees. I am glad I did. But there were many times I wanted to give up. I have also experienced hopelessness with regard to my depression. It would seem that I would be getting better and then another life stressor or crisis would knock me back to my knees. In those darkest of times I could not see any possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel. I felt trapped by my internal struggle. I would fight so hard just to be sent back into the pits. It seemed so unfair. Where were the efforts of my work?
The worst result of this feeling of hopelessness is inactivity. You sit and just wait for the world to end because you feel that there are no more options for you. I have been there and it is one of the most desolate feelings in the world.