Understanding Clinical Depression
Is there any way any of us can understand people who are depressed? I have been an amateur psychologist and know-it-all for more than 25 years and even I don’t get it.
The simplest answer is…well… you can’t understand clinical depression unless you have it. If you can understand it …well you’re crazy. There is no rationale for clinical depression. It is not something you can snap out of. Its not the same as that day you could only get round hamburgers and you really wanted a square one. It’s not the same as when your pet hamster just simply refused to get on the wheel. I think JK Rowling described it best as a Dementor attack…it was like all the joy in life was sucked out of you and you’d never feel happy again.
Moreover it is like living in constant pain and you don’t know where the source is. You just want it to stop. You know there is no logical reason for it but it permeates you and it’s all you can feel. You have to make it stop. You convince yourself that everyone is better off without you and you have nothing left to give this world except more pain.
If you’re drowning in the Abyss and its not even midnight yet and all you can feel is the pains of life then you need to go see someone…now!
For some there are environmental causes, the loss of a loved one, unemployment, making a foolish mistake etc. But all too often it makes no sense whatsoever… you can be rich with everything to live for and want nothing more than escape from the pain. Depression is indiscriminate, it crosses all divides and makes life a living hell for those who suffer from it and those around them.
There is no power of positive thinking, no set of exercises or any short term therapy that will stop it. There is some hope in medication and on-going therapy but its not easy. To add to the complexity, I believe that for certain women the answer may lie in hormonal therapy as the fluctuation of hormones wreaks havoc on brain chemistry as in postpartum depression, menstrual cycles and menopause. I have no way of saying that is accurate for sure, it just makes sense to me. I am not a medical professional so the salt that I give is only available in multi grain.
The really crazy thing is that irrational behaviour cannot be rationalized. No one can or will understand why you feel the way you do because the way you feel is not normal. You’re smothering and all you want is a minute of free open air. It is there and you will find it but only those who live it or those whose job it is to help you beat it, can help you. Even then it might take time, going through different professionals, drugs and therapies before you get what you need.
For those who are depressed but not clinically….There is no doubt that for most people ‘life sucks and then you die’ is pretty much an accurate depiction of how things go. Life is depressing and there really is no value to it whatsoever….especially if you are that guy that just drove down Mountain Road at 35 klicks per hour. If you need to drive that slow then life is truly passing you by.
That being said there is an inherent value to life. If you live to yourself you die to yourself. If you live to help others then you always have something to live for. I don’t just mean swinging a hammer for Habitat for Humanity (although that is an awesome thing to do) but more helping provide for your family, being there for friends, and/or living each day to make life better for yourself or someone else by community involvement. It’s been my experience that these people have the most hope…for today and tomorrow.
Sadly for those who suffer from Mental Illness, helping others is often lost on them as they can’t see past the pain. Eventually, when they get help, the pains of life will give way to the joys of living. They can and will see a better tomorrow coming.
So if you feel lost and alone…you are not. There is hope and the only way to find it is to get help. If you can’t get help…well…someone has to write those damned Christmas movies where Santa needs you to save Christmas with a crippled reindeer and a mentally challenged elf. Until I started looking in to Clinical Depression, I used to wonder what kind of human being would write that stuff…and now I know.
RR Fry is a former broadcaster, producer, political aid and freelance writer living in Moncton.