What is depression?
Technically depression is feeling of severe despondency and dejection. Everyone feels depressed every once in awhile. However, depression disorder is not a passing blue mood, but persistent feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. An illness becomes a disorder when it affects your daily life, like work, sleeping, studying, or even just getting out of bed. Many people confuse mood swings with a real illness. Depression is always there; it’s not just temporary. Chances are, if you feel sad occasionally, but if the feeling passes, you probably don’t have depression. Depression affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, age 18 and older. Clinical depression often leads to suicide; depression is the cause of over two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides in the U.S. each year.
What does depression feel like?
A discussion on “7 Cups – Free Care & Therapy”, has those struggling with depression telling their stories as to what depression actually feels like. The user Rel says: “Depression is like going through life like you’re trying to wade through water. Everything feels sluggish, slow, difficult, and if you make one wrong step you’ll trip and drown,” and the user Zeiwald says, “No matter what you do or say – there’s always depression knocking on your shoulder saying you’re not good enough.” A relative of mine describes her depression as “a constant reminder that I have never been, or will ever be, good enough for anyone.”
depression isn’t a mood, or an emotion
it’s being glued to your bed
staring at the ceiling until your eyes burn, just trying to fall asleep
sometimes you just don’t sleep
it’s like the heavy clouds on a rainy day
it’s always there, even when you smile and laugh, you feel it
you let the sinking feeling in
and it swallows you whole
―a personal poem about depression
Why does depression occur?
Depression can occur from many different things. There can be a traumatic event, or it can be gradual. Depression can also be a product of chemical reactions in your brain, or it can be hormonal changes. Personal factors like family history, personality, and drug and alcohol use can affect severity and susceptibility to depression.
Personal Depression Stories
my sisters suicide attempt – e.m.
In February of 2015, depression nearly took my sister’s life. At the time, she was a junior in high school. She had been battling her depression, a result of a learning disability that made her slower than most of her grade in certain areas.
I wake up at 9:00 on a Monday morning. A snow day. I cozy myself up in bed and watch the big chunks of snow flutter down from the sky. Around noon, I go downstairs to make myself some lunch. My sister works on homework at the dining room table. She looks pale, but she probably just tired. Mom is working at the computer. Her and my sister have been fighting a lot about grades and school and college and anything and everything. I try not to involve myself. My mom walks over to my sister. I clean up my dishes and get ready to go back upstairs to avoid the yelling. My mom’s voice raises, but it’s different this time. She’s screaming, panicking, telling me to call 911 and I understand. I know what’s happening and I go numb and I dial three numbers.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“Um my― my sister, she just took a bunch of pills I think, we need an ambulance…”
“Alright, it’s on its way.”
I hang up the phone. My mom is trying to get my sister to throw up in the bathroom. It doesn’t feel real, I’m still numb. The police officers are mean and speak coldly to my mom, who is hysterically crying. My sister sits quietly, looking pale and shaky. My mom says she has to go and that I should stay here, it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay, etc. The ambulance leaves and the house is quiet. I go upstairs and sit with my cat. I don’t cry, I’m numb. I call my brother and tell him what happened, he’s at college studying to be a pharmacist and completely oblivious to what’s happening at home. He assures me that she’ll be okay, saying she didn’t take enough of the medication to die. I can’t tell if he’s trying to convince me or himself.
I’m home alone all day, I blast my music, eat ice cream, anything to pass the time. My mom tells me they won’t be home that night. I spend my time alone. When my mom comes home, we follow the doctors orders and strip down my sisters room, take everything out of her desk, clean it all out, get rid of any belts, scarves, shaving razors, anything that she could harm herself with. After we finish baby proofing, the room is almost completely stripped, theres hardly a trace of her left in there.
We have snow days the entire week, I spend my time at my friends’ houses, my parents spend their time at the hospital, running tests on my sisters mental health. I know she hates hospitals, I want to visit her but I’m too afraid.
My mom picks me up from my friend’s house with my sister in the passenger seat, and I’ve never felt more distant from her. In that moment I realize that our family will never be normal again. Maybe we’ll never be normal, and maybe thats okay. Maybe we just need to heal.
I’ve never fully shared my sisters story until now. Now, it’s easier to talk about because my sister is coping with her depression, living the happiest she ever has. Depression convinced her she wasn’t good enough for the real world, and she wasn’t smart enough to go to college or get a job. A learning disorder made it hard for her to keep up with her classmates, and this made her feel like she wasn’t as good as everyone else. Depression really can be treated and coped with. Now, my sister is studying music business at the University of Belmont, in Tennessee. She’s doing what she’s always wanted to do, and not letting the confines of depression hurt or change her anymore.
my sisters anxiety and ocd – e.f.
In the primitive years of my sister’s life, she struggled with anxiety and OCD. My family and I stuck with her through the troubling time. It started out as just a minor panic attacks, along with excessive hand washing, but as her condition worsened, the anxiety, panic, and depression exacerbated.
After a while, we found out her panics were triggered by lighting, like dim or super bright lights. So often when we were home alone before our parents got home, she would scream and cry with anxiety. She was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which you’ve probably heard of referred to as OCD. The symptoms I’ve described may not be the first thought of OCD, where you might think of straightening books or pencils to be in color or alphabetical order. But OCD is the disorder where people have unwanted and repeated thoughts or feelings, which drives them to the compulsions you think of. Having this disorder caused her to fall behind on school, and become hopeless in her own life and success.
This affected my family severely by limiting us on family trips, costing us thousands of dollars in medication, and just overall draining my family’s energy and happiness. Her specific thoughts were that she would hurt or kill the people she loved the most. At the lowest point in her condition, her and I were home alone and she was screaming and banging her head on the wall trying to get these thoughts to go away. I called my parents and friends to see if someone could come over to help her. After that she realized she needed serious help, so she started attending group and personal therapy and got on medication. Often, people with mental illnesses like this will begin medication and it’ll make them feel a lot better, so they’ll stop taking them daily. This messes with the chemical balance and causes the condition to come back or even worsen. She takes her medicine in the morning, so many times we would be late for school while we tried to convince her that the medicine was helping and that didn’t mean her OCD was gone. It took a few years to get her on a consistent medicine routine, and to balance the different medications for depression, anxiety, and the medications for the side effects of the other medications.
My sister moved out of our home two years ago to attend the University of Louisville. In the first year she called a lot and was very anxious with her new environment and home, but over time she has become mentally stable and independent. She is happy with her life and education now, and has seen that you can live and cope with disorders, not letting them take over your life.
What’s the cure?
There is no true cure to depression. There are medications available to help subdue the symptoms of depression, but not fully cure it. The first step to dealing with it is to help yourself and respect yourself. Take a shower, paint your nails, make yourself feel at peace. The more and more you get respect for yourself, the easier it is to realize that you deserve happiness.
Depression can often seem as if we are frozen in our situations, and there is no hope of recovering.
It’s like constantly feeling small in a vast world.
It’s like the breath is taken from your lungs, you feel weak and powerless.
It can be hard to break the ice and talk about your feelings, but getting diagnosed can help get you treatment and the support you need. Break the ice. Speak up.