What It Feels Like To Be Depressed
When I look back at old photos from over the years, I come to the immediate conclusion that I have never been able to hide my inner states from the camera. There is a story there in the old black and white images, the grade school portraits, and the more contemporary digital renderings. Depression has been the ghostly presence to many of my visual images and memories of self. I don't ever wish to romanticize melancholy yet it does seem a part of my selfhood. Where did it begin and why? I really don't know.
I could point fingers to my environment and childhood trauma. Raised solely by a mother who had a mental illness herself, paranoid schizophrenia, I certainly had the fodder for creating feelings of entrapment and despair. Genetics? Sure. I have the genes to produce depression in spades. My father was a depressive and died at an early age. He lost his life to alcoholism when I was but four years old. What else? Stressors? Certainly life is full of them. I have had to deal with my youngest son's diagnosis of autism and now my recent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Nobody is immune to life's offerings of both the good and the bad.
I am looking at a photo of myself from the third grade. I am immersed in a group of smiling girls with matching blue head bands, for charm school. I am quite sure I was not charming and I was definitely not smiling. I am the one in the back, trying desperately to not be seen. Then there is the photo from high school where the school yearbook photographer attempted to catch people in their natural state without being posed. I was caught with head cradled in hand, a wistful sadness permeating my demeanor. The caption read, "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner." Of course I was mortified and secretly humiliated. I must state here that not all my photos reveal sadness. Just like anybody else, depressives feel and express joy and happiness too. I find the depth of emotion to be the true barometer. Some of us are able to feel in the extremes whether it be despair or even euphoria.
The photos and memories do seem to confirm for me that I have been battling my depression for as long as I can remember. I have had many times where the depression has been as small as an irritating pebble in my shoe, annoying but easily tossed to the side of the road. And there have been many more times when the depression rises up like some great beast to dominate every facet of my life, rendering me scared and lifeless in its wrath. Throughout the years I have honed some survival skills in order to cope with my depression. One of my biggest coping mechanisms is to write. Writing is my way of healing the pain of this mood disorder. It gives me focus to what I may be feeling at any given time. It is a release and a catharsis to all this great mental and emotional energy.
Along with healing myself, my writing also serves to create bridges to other people. Words are so very powerful. We use them for all sorts of reasons, some good and some bad. Words have the power to maim and to hurt but also to heal and to deliver hope. After 43 years now of having to contend with my depression, I find myself here, on this health site, writing about my experience.
What do I have to offer you the reader? Well, I will be quite frank with you. Although my title says "Expert" there above my name, I want to say that I am not any sort of traditional expert. I am not a doctor. I am not a psychologist. I am not a psychiatrist. I cannot tell you about doses of medication or provide specific psychological or medical guidance. What I do feel competent to bring to the table is the sharing of my own personal experiences with how to cope with depression. My experience is not your experience. I cannot truly walk in your shoes. But I can walk right alongside you and share the journey.
If there is one great message I hope to deliver here it is hope. As clichéd as it sounds, there is always hope. It is the one thing nobody can take away from you. This is what keeps us going when we have sunk to the lowest lows. I can honestly say I have been there, so I have first hand knowledge. It is very possible to not only survive but even feel good again and find both peace and happiness.
I will be writing here on Mondays and Wednesdays. I do hope you will stay on for the journey. I will be here!