By Brian McKay
While I normally remain fairly guarded about the details of my personal life, many people struggle with depression and their friends and family struggle to understand it. This is an article that I hope helps further that understanding.
Personal Experience: I realize that I have always dealt with depression. When I was a kid I had some suicidal thoughts but not knowing what depression was I just assumed it due to some pretty bad bullying in school.
Later in life there would be random instances caused by stress or sometimes in the late spring after the excitement of sun and warmer weather wore off. They were fairly short but varied in intensity and then over with. About my mid-twenties I started to realize what the problem was and that there might be some history of mental illness on one side of my family history.
The biggest and most intense lapse to that point was after losing the business, house, relationship, etc. It was severe to the point of thinking about walking off building tops only to fall to the street below. It lasted about a good six - seven months.
The summer of 2014 saw one bad event put me into the worst place I have ever been. For the first time in my life I actually missed work because of it and had to take 5 weeks of leave. I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar depression and PTSD from tragic death of my sister and have mostly kept that hidden ever since.
When you first get diagnosed as such the first thing you think is, "Oh my God I am one of those mentally ill people". You are ashamed because you were always taught the stigma of it growing up in the U.S. Even now when I look at the three bottles of prescriptions I now take daily, I think, "Holy shit! I am a crazy person." When you see the descriptions of disability on job applications, and that bi-polar disorder is one, all you can think is, "Am I that damaged?"
I am neither damaged nor crazy, but the stigma is always in your subconscious. If anything, I feel that the recent discovery has made me more self aware.
This last episode was the worst ever. It lasted 20 months and I often thought that it might never end. Between the struggle of rebuilding a life destroyed in the financial crises and the stress of adjusting to a new reality, I thought it could never end until big changes happened. Those seemed less and less likely every day. It did end though and a lot was learned along the way. Those 20 months were a chance to explore this thing like never before.
So for all those who are suffering and don't understand it all and for those who love them, here are 10 things that happen during depression:
1) It hurts physically. At times your body might ache or you are so tired you can barely move. Sometimes there might be shakes from anxiety. It surely isn't the same for everyone but I can assume everyone feels some of the physical pain.
2) Going to work can be excruciating. Knowing you have to put on your game face and fake it is hard work. I often lament that it is 5 times harder to do the job when in deep depression. I recently switched jobs into a sales roll in order to earn more. In the waiting to go to work every morning I often get physically ill. Mondays are especially hard when you are depressed as you wonder if you have the strength to make it a full week. When you do make it into the office you have to avoid all of the happy posters and personal development quotes because they only to seem to make it worse. You strain to smile and say, "Doing very well Bob!" when greeted.
3) Coming home isn't much better. A depressed person feels lost and alone, often a square peg that doesn't fit in the round hole. Isolation can be a problem, especially for those that might not have a spouse or close immediate family. Even if you go somewhere to be around people you might feel that you don't fit or that you are unworthy of any substantial relationships.
4) It is both scary and unnerving when you have thoughts of self harm. It is made worse when people say that such things are "selfish". I have learned that it has nothing to do with selfishness. It is because you are so deep in that black cloud that you see no way out. It is because you know that you have people in your life that you care about and that you keep going. If anything, I hope I never hear someone use the "selfish" moniker again as it is completely ignorant. For me, my daughter, and my love for her, is the whole reason I would never allow myself to fall trap to such thoughts, but it doesn't mean they go away.
5) You keep trying to dig out of the feedback loop. You think, The gym would help, but I have no energy. or Enjoying something as simple as a video game might be uplifting but I really don't feel like it. You know you have to keep improving and moving forward to dig yourself out, but it is so hard to do. I am luckier than most in this regard and truly feel for those that lose all ability to move forward.
6) You can't give yourself credit. I have always excelled at almost everything I do and fortunately continue to do so in most ways, even while dealing with depression. If someone were to ask how I just pulled that off or how my numbers were so good, I honestly have no clue. I would just consider it luck.
7) The eternally happy society sucks. We live in a society where you always have to be happy and portray happiness. It took a Pixar movie, Inside Out, to finally highlight that sadness does indeed play an important role in our lives (I highly recommend watching it). So when you are depressed you are ashamed and hide it and envy those that seem like they will never have that issue. You can't talk about it because it seems like the person that does might be the one that hits the brakes on this massively fun roller coaster everyone else is riding.
8) Your creativity feels like it is gone. Your opinion feels like it is worthless. It was in finally pushing myself to start writing that I realized my creativity hadn't left me.
9) Self destructive behavior can be hard to avoid. You think why not? Or for a while over drinking or doing something truly stupid might divert your attention elsewhere than only to realize the next day that it just made things worse.
10) People who catch on that you are down will offer you all kinds of bullshit ideas to fix this thing. Please don't offer tips like "you just need religious belief" or "just get out there" or "you need to put it out there to the universe to be happy". None of that will fix it. It is inside me, not due to things around me.
For those that going through depression right now, I hope you find some solace in knowing that others feel it too. For those who care about someone who is, please just understand it is never a simple fix. Your friend, family member or lover desperately wants to get their self back and feel human again. Just offer your support and an occasional activity or moment with the hidden agenda of helping them divert their attention for a while (don't tell them the agenda and please don't have it include excessive drinking). Understand that they are being followed by a black cloud that they really don't always control and that they wish more than anything would blow away.
Brian McKay is co-founder of zenruption. He hopes that by having nothing off limits to sharing that others are served. Your comments and sharing of this article do matter.