Monday, April 14, 2014

Depression: An Insider's Perspective.

I am type-2 bipolar with dysthymia.  I don't make a secret about it and I am not ashamed of it (I'll get into reasons why in a bit).  I am on three medications to control both the bi-polar and the dysthymia (because lithium didn't work for me; or rather, it worked too well).

Dysthymia a type of depression defined as depression that lasts two or more years.  It can be slightly depressed with episodes of major depression, or very depressed.  With my bipolar my dysthymia was major depression occasionally interrupted by mania.

Today I want to talk about depression because I think it is very misunderstood by a lot of people.  And if you are a writer and your character is depressed, you'll want to understand that character.  So today I shall bare my soul.  Well, sort of.

Everyone get's a little "blue" every now and then.  Your girlfriend breaks up with you.  Your job sucks.  But it passes after a few weeks or even a couple of months.  This is "situational depression" where you are depressed for some good reason.  There is a slight risk of it turning into major depression, especially if it lasts longer than two months.  But mostly people get over it and get on with their lives.  It's a natural response to a sad situation.

Then there are people such as me.  I'm depressed nearly all the time (without meds).  I called it "floating depression" because it seemed there was this dark cloud hovering over me ready to rain on my parade at any time.   I could be in a happy, joyous occasion and feel sad.  This is not due to a character fault, a personality weakness.  It's due to the chemistry in my brain.  I probably inherited this chemistry judging by the mental illness in my family history.

This is like being type-I diabetic or having epilepsy.  It is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is not the fault of the person that they are depressed.  Telling them not to be depressed is like telling a diabetic to not be diabetic.  It won't happen.  Like the diabetic needs treatment, so does the person who is depressed.  Someone once asked me with horror in their voice, "Aren't you dependent on your drugs?" and I said "Yes, very much so, just like a diabetic is dependent on insulin."  Should the diabetic feel guilty about taking insulin?  They why should I feel shame for being "dependent" or my psychotropic drugs?

But what does depression feel like?  It ranges from feeling "blue" constantly to feeling life is completely not worth it and you might as well end it.  I used to wake up every morning contemplating killing myself.  And the side benefit was, I wouldn't have to go to work.  I'm not sure this is because I was depressed, but I would cry at movies.  Forrest Gump made me ball like a baby at the end.

I guess to know how depression feels, imagine being your saddest for not minutes, hours, or even days, but years.  No matter what nice or wonderful things happen to you, you are still sad underneath.  It's as if you live in the sunshine but shadowy hands are constantly dragging you down into a river of sadness.  And there seems to be no escape.

Depression is a serious mental disorder that you need to treat if you experience it for more than a couple of weeks.  I'm not a doctor nor a psychiatrist, just a guy who knows what it likes to be depressed constantly.  I am so happy I got the meds that keep me from being depressed and keep me from having manic episodes.  Maybe later I'll write about what being manic is like.

1 comment:

  1. Well stated and wonderfully shared. Depression is about so much more than just "feeling sad." It's the inability to feel the ups at all. The blah, no feeling state, the basic malfunction of the brain when it comes to anything above apathy.
    And no amount of cheering up can "fix it." It's chemical/medical/measurable.
    The more people who come out and share this, the more folks will understand it.