Monday, November 27, 2017

What Is Depression?

Sometimes I see posts or talk to people about depression and suicide. This happens to be a very personal topic to me. I have many family members who have struggled with depression, and several who chose to commit suicide. I know a lot of people mean well, but if you don't understand depression, you will never understand suicide.

One day when I was at work, an officer talked to me about a guy that had recently committed suicide and how it was so cowardly. It was all I could do to contain my anger. This man obviously had no concept of what depression is like and what a person actually goes through before committing suicide.

We all have times in our lives when things are bad, but for some people, it doesn't go away. Sometimes people get so sad and hopeless that they just want to make it stop hurting. A lot of people throw around the word depressed, but so many do not understand that they are actually just grieving or sad.

There is a difference.

The American Psychiatric Association shares the following on their website
But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:
  • In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of two weeks.
  • In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
  • For some people, the death of a loved one can bring on major depression. Losing a job or being a victim of a physical assault or a major disaster can lead to depression for some people. When grief and depression co-exist, the grief is more severe and lasts longer than grief without depression. Despite some overlap between grief and depression, they are different. Distinguishing between them can help people get the help, support or treatment they need.
What does this mean in less clinical terms? Let me try to illustrate.

A child grows up being made fun of because in some way, they are different. This child is constantly made to feel that they are not good enough, maybe that they are a disappointment at home. Things never go well for them in some way at school, at work, or in some other part of their life. They begin to no longer get enjoyment from things that they once did. They feel like they are worthless, maybe that they are a burden to all those that they love. Sometimes, they even begin to loathe or hate themselves for the pain that they must be causing those around them.

Okay, you say, but that is still no reason to commit suicide.

Well, imagine that your brain actually believed that you were causing harm to people that you loved. Imagine that life hurt so bad that you were physically ill in some way. Imagine feeling like a ship that was sinking and that was going to take down all the people whom you love if you didn't do something to stop it.

It is really hard to imagine if you have never felt it. Sometimes, you know what caused it. Sometimes, you have no idea why you feel this way. For some people, there is a biochemical issue in the brain and it just doesn't function normally. Part of it may come down to genetics, personality, or environmental factors. The point is, it is not something you can just stop doing, or switch off.

Believe me--people with depression would if they could.

Think, for just a moment, to yourself about what it would take for you to no longer want to live. A lot, right? So, before you call someone who committed or tried to commit suicide a coward, think about that.

And for those dealing with the loss of someone, asking yourself why they didn't come to you for help--they couldn't. Most likely, they didn't want to be a burden to you--it's already enough that they are hurting.

What can we take from this? First of all, be kind to everyone because you never know when one mean word, even if it's not directed at them, per se, could tip someone over the edge. Second of all, don't underestimate the terrible shit that someone is going though just because you see no physical symptoms.

In short--be kind to your fellow humans!!!

Also, if you are reading this and you are depressed--there are people who care! Here are resources for you:

National Suicide Hotline: call 1-800-273-8255
Online Chat:
Crisis Textline: text 741741 from anywhere in the US

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