Depression comes in two main types: acute (single incident or short term) and chronic (long term; i.e. 6+ months and/or recurrent). Within each type are many layers of severity ranging from “I can’t do anything right” to “I don’t even have the energy to commit suicide.”

In everyday vernacular, “depressed” is just another word for “sad”. While this may be true in most cases, in many cases it is a serious and potentially life threatening problem. Being “clinically depressed” doesn’t mean you’re always sad or down. But it is often difficult to describe to people what it’s like to be depressed. It’s usually even more difficult to convince them it is not a temporary thing that can be “gotten over” with time and/or distraction. That being said, here are a few of my thoughts on what it’s like to be Depressed.

“Depression isn’t sadness. Depression is Life, in all its underwhelming glory, as it crushes your soul.”

“If happiness were a 100 yard dash, I’d start somewhere two miles behind the starting line.”

“I have determined that I can become invisible against my will. Despite sitting in nearly empty halls, no passing friend greets me.”

“My heart breaks in these empty halls
Echoes of laughter, echoes of tears
Sound and resound in my soul.”

“A shadow creeps in and paints everything in despair.
It bleeds off hope and joy. It shuts off your air.”

“Normally I have no problem looking at my feelings, but now I’m scared to look into that soul-sucking abyss.”

“When you are a depressive, you often don’t want to go to bed. This is not because you don’t want the day to end, but because you don’t want tomorrow to begin.”

It is important to note that while most people have had similar thoughts from time to time, those who are depressed often feel they are the embodiment of these thoughts. And it is not that we who are Depressed cannot feel joy or happiness, contentment or euphoria; rather, it is that the statements above are descriptions of our base line existence.

In many ways, we are as handicapped as those with Aspberger’s Syndrome. Often our social and pragmatic skills are retarded. Certainly how we see ourselves and our place in society and with other people is distorted, sometimes unbelievably so to those who are fortunate enough not to have to deal with it, or are only on the periphery. And as a result of that distortion, how we react to some things surprises or shocks those around us. For instance, it took more than 20 years for me to feel that friendly teasing was not an all-out attack on my personal worth. It is something I still have trouble with, sometimes, and as a result, I don’t often tease others on a personal level.

The good news is that, though it cannot be cured, Depression can be treated. The bad news is that the treatments are expensive. To give an example: on the spectrum of Depression, I have a moderate to light case. Yet without insurance, my course of medication is roughly $800 each month…and I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s not unusual for the cost of medications to exceed $1000. That’s just medication. Never mind the visits to the doctor/psychiatrist, or even the hospital E.R. or in-patient services.

Are there other conditions that are more expensive to treat? Absolutely. Even over the lifetime of the person. This is not about “whose life sucks more”. This is about educating those who see only someone who seems perpetually down or irritable, those whose only glimpse into our everyday lives is the death of a loved one or the obliteration of a cherished hope. And we, too, lose loved ones. We, too, have hopes that are destroyed.

If you know someone who is Depressed, seek to understand them rather than pity or avoid them. You’ll find that Depressives are among the most empathic people you meet.

How do you know if you or someone else is depressed? See a psychiatrist. When is it time to see a psychiatrist? If you consistently have 3 or more of these symptoms:
+ difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
+ fatigue and decreased energy
+ feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
+ feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
+ insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
+ irritability, restlessness
+ loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
+ overeating or appetite loss
+ persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
+ persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
+ thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts (even if this is the only symptom, see a psychiatrist as soon as possible)

If you have any or all of these symptoms, are you Depressed? Maybe, maybe not. See someone qualified. Psychologist/Psychiatrist visits are now often covered by insurance. Take advantage of it if you have insurance. If you don’t, sometimes therapists will do pro bono work. When they do, they often post flyers in places like a YMCA or community center bulletin board.