How do you explain depression to someone who has never experienced it? I recognize it and feel it but even I have a hard time making any sense of it. It can be numbing, like some sort of anesthesia that allows you to see and be very conscious of everything in your life but you don’t feel any of it. You see your children but can’t find that very small spark that would normally bring you out of yourself to engage with them without immense effort. The same could be said about any friends or relatives, you see them if you can manage it, but you can’t relate. This quicksand spreads throughout every aspect of your life. Hobbies lose their flavour as do movies, music and sunsets. Stress only weighs on you as you are sinking in your world of quicksand. Work and responsibilities are slowly plodded through at best.
Everything in your life can be good; money, family, friends, employment and status. You can have it all but it’s just something that happens to you, nothing sensational or pleasurable cuts through the anesthesia. If you have experienced it before you can remind yourself that “this too shall pass” but like a passenger on the Titanic you’re more apt to believe everything in your world is sinking.
Rather than flailing in the quicksand which only seems to further your descent, you start thinking about taking one last gulp of air and giving in to the inevitable. Like someone jumping from a high rise fire, it seems better to hit the ground and end it quickly than to stay and melt into nothing.
I don’t think you can really explain depression to people who’ve never experienced it. It’s just one of those things that has to be felt to be understood.
Life becomes stale and pointless. And frankly, much as I might hope that others could really understand it, I could never wish depression on anyone.
It may not be a gift to bestow on anyone but many of the aspects of depression can be appreciated by people. I have never experienced chemotherapy but I have been violently ill. I can not know but I can imagine some of the experience. Depression has characteristics that we all experience. In both cases I think the difference is in depth and duration. Empathy is not always an experience of knowing but rather placing ourselves into another reality.
I largely agree with you, perhaps I’m just getting frustrated with some of the people in my life who just don’t seem to get it. Nothing I’ve said really seems to get through that this isn’t something I can just shake off.
It may not only be an issue of not understanding. I think it is hard for those around us to accept depression. Others are at times more capable of seeing the good in our lives. Those who are close to us also have the experience of us in a healthy state. The people around us want the person they know to be present. When we slowly plod through a life that in many cases remains unchanged, it doesn’t make sense to someone who has not experienced depression. Often the only thing that has changed is us and it is assumed that it is in our power to change it back. Rather than walking with us through our depression people want us to flick the switch and see and experience as they do. At times in my struggles I would fumble along the walls of my darkness trying to find the light. Unfortunately the issue was not with the switch but rather with the wiring behind the walls. It is difficult to understand what can’t be seen.
I’ve tried by just saying “think of the saddest moment in your life and imagine feeling like that every day.” But yeah, its still impossible to explain.
That is a great way to explain it. I think I would add that it is like being wrapped in a wet blanket. It is stifling and very difficult to escape from. Some of my experience with depression wasn’t even sadness but an inability to experience anything. Numb thoughts holding tears that fail to fall.
You bring up another good point, everyone with depression experiences it differently.
Yes, I have experienced several aspects of depression at different times and to different degrees. If it was one thing to all people it might be easier to understand and treat.
I might give all mental illness more credibility if it was the same for everyone. I find the variation to be way too much sometimes. I appreciate human variation though which is why I’d prefer to believe some of us are supposed to be “fucked up”.
Mental illness is a fairly large puddle. We stop and stare at those who fall in yet our own feet are soaked.
Falling into that puddle makes a big splash and everyone around you gets wet. It is a matter of degree. You end up with soakers, but your family and friends get wet too. Hopefully together we find stepping stones and get to dry ground. Then the sunshine dries us off, and we get on with life, one step at a time. It takes team work, and time.
Unfortunately for some the people in their lives head for higher ground. I am fortunate. I like your analogy. I might add that stigma hampers efforts to dry off.
Thank you for writing this, it explains just how I feel. Would you mind if I re-posted this on my blog? Just yesterday,,,while I was at my daughter’s Grade 8 graduation ceremony I found myself thinking “I’m so glad that I didn’t commit suicide”. In February of this past year I was experiencing my worst depression spell ever and actually was considering this path. Thank goodness,,,I got thru it and actually finally got the help I had been begging for.
Sorry for the late reply, I was on vacation. I would be very pleased if you shared my post. It is interesting when we have come close to death to look around at where we are now, both good and bad, and realize none of it would be happening. I’m sure your daughters graduation was a moment worth hanging on for. All the best and have a great weekend. Brett