Depression Doesn’t Discriminate

Here’s the thing about depression. It doesn’t discriminate. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, young or old, it can get you. Whatever your race or religion it can strike.

But as someone who has suffered from it my whole life, the most interesting aspect of depression to me is that it seemingly makes no difference whether things are going well in your life or going badly. It can smack you upside the head in an instant.

At least that has been my observation from decades of living with depression. I can be walking along thinking I am having a good day and feeling great and then within a few seconds it descends and my chest is feeling crushed and the weight of the world is suddenly on my shoulders.

I also feel queasy and unsettled. There is no seeming “reason” that this has happened (believe me I have repeatedly tried to find one in the moment) and yet in a split second I suddenly feel like a loser, that everything I have achieved in my lifetime makes no difference, that I make no difference. Even walking seems a struggle.

Conversely there have been days that have not gone well and while I found them challenging and frustrating (to say the least!) I was not actually depressed. Go figure. This (October 6-12) is Mental Health Awareness Week and it has given me pause to think about depression and how it has impacted my life.  I wish depression only stuck around one week every year! Alas, not so.

There is also a distinction to be made here between clinical depression and situational depression. People feel low and depressed on losing a loved one, their livelihood, health or other major event. You expect that. I am referring here to clinical depression. It is a different kettle of fish.

Those who don’t suffer from this just do not understand. I don’t really blame them though I wish they’d make an effort to get it a little. I had someone in my life, critical of my depression, who told me they just willed themselves out of it. Of course they failed to add they did it with vast quantities of alcohol!

People will tell you things cannot be that bad, as though “things” have anything really to do with depression. You could win the Nobel Prize in the middle of it and you’d still be depressed. Look on the bright side is another favourite. Really! Please point me to that bright side of feeling as though my life is over. It is better for your mental health if you just don’t try to explain what it is like to live in the black fog of a depression. Those that get it will need no explanation and those that don’t you will likely never enlighten.

I could say that depression ruined my life but that’s just not true. For all the things it took from me, it has made me a much more empathetic and compassionate person. In some ways it has actually helped me to achieve in life (if I have achieved) because I wanted to be able to scream at it that it wasn’t going to take everything away from me.

I’d like to have experienced this existence without depression but that was not to be. There were times (stretching through years) that I thought frequently about ending my life but for one reason or another I didn’t. Luckily those times are past. Looking back I still often wonder how I am here.

The trick with depression, though, is to not give up. I tried different things, different people. You have to keep searching for a way to deal with it, whether with therapy, medication or other tools. You owe that to yourself and to those who live with you. Make sure you do not define yourself by your depression. You are so much more than it.

I was lucky. At the times I was at a danger stage someone always seemed to come along to steer me back to life. I eventually found a wonderful therapist (kissing many toads in the process!) and when I left her two years later I had many tools to fight the brain processes that depression brings on me with such lightning speed.

Yes, in spite of everything I have learned, depression still strikes and I hate it with every ounce I have. It is not easy. I blame myself, even knowing that this is NOT reality, only a dark shadow of it. I feel I should be able to come out of it. In the end I use all those lessons learned and try to get through the day knowing that most likely I will wake up tomorrow and things will feel different. And they usually do.

But I remember the years when every day I carried around depression and believed that my life was ALWAYS going to be like that. I woke up depressed day after day and only sheer will made me get up and on with my life.

With our Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, I can honestly say I am grateful to have survived. For all the dark moments, my relative mental health allows me now to look back and recognize the people who were there for me and to experience all the moments of brilliance I was fortunate enough to have been given. To have missed them would have been a darn shame.

I truly feel for those of you who suffer from depression. How do you deal with your own black demon?

 

12 Comments

  1. Seema
    Oct 12, 2013

    EXCELLENT blog post, Susan! Much of what you said resonated with me. I appreciate that you’ve written about chronic depression in such a realistic way…getting to a better place is not the same as “getting better.” For me, getting to a better place hasn’t meant that I’m depression-free. And it has not only involved a lot of work to get there, but also to stay there. Though the exact combination of tools I use to deal with my depression varies, the toolbox never gets put away.

    • Susan McNicoll
      Oct 12, 2013

      Thank you Seema. For things I said to resonate with someone else who suffers from depression is immensely gratifying. I love your toolbox analogy so much and I shall keep it in my head when I have to reach for a tool the next time. I wish there was not going to be a next time but I know there will be. You should be proud of yourself that you have kept working and are in a better place than you used to be. We have to be ever-vigilant against depression but at least it is no longer present 24/7.

  2. Denise
    Oct 12, 2013

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for writing so eloquently about such an important subject. A subject that our society, for the most part, would rather avoid. Although I have not suffered from the type of depression you describe, I have had many people close to my heart who have. Reading about your experience of it helps me to understand it a little better, and with that understanding, comes empathy. I can put your words into my “helpers” toolbox. Thank you. You are a blessing to this world.

    • Susan McNicoll
      Oct 12, 2013

      Thank you Denise. Your words humble me. You remind me that there are people out there who are trying to “get it”, to understand a little what depression feels like to someone. Those close to your heart that suffer will really appreciate the empathy.

    • Seema
      Oct 13, 2013

      I love the idea of a “helpers” toolbox. Your friends are so lucky to have someone like you in their lives.

      • Susan McNicoll
        Oct 14, 2013

        I am the lucky one. I am blessed to have the best friends in the world.

  3. Peter
    Oct 14, 2013

    not often I read something from start to finish…and understand it….I did with your words above…..kept nodding at every sentence..there are days, I am grateful to make it through the day…I, like you, have some amazing family and friends…and some that dont understand…so, I smile, pray for them & me….and move on….
    thank you and God bless…
    Pete

    • Susan McNicoll
      Oct 14, 2013

      Hi Pete. You have a wise attitude towards those that don’t understand – and I am glad to know you pray for yourself too. You matter. I totally get the “grateful to make it through the day”. I have had many of those and it is good to know someone else out there understands. Thank you.

  4. Cheryl Harrington
    Oct 14, 2013

    An important post, Susan – insightful, sensitive, and so very personal. Thank you for sharing your experiences and know you are appreciated. I’m going to share this link with friends I know will find it helpful and with others who need to understand.

    • Susan McNicoll
      Oct 14, 2013

      Your words mean so much Cheryl. Thank you not only for your support but for any efforts you make to pass the blog on elsewhere. I hope it helps those with depression to know they are not alone and gives pause to think to those who don’t suffer from it.

  5. Marie
    Dec 15, 2013

    Poignant and illuminating. I work with many clients who have chronic, serious depression and I have witnessed how devastating it can be for them. Thanks for your open and honest post!

    • Susan McNicoll
      Dec 16, 2013

      Thank you Marie for sharing your thoughts and acknowledging how devastating it can be sometimes when you suffer from depression, as you have seen with your some of your clients. I personally find it hard when I struggle to come out of it and progress is slow. It feels as though I have failed in the endeavour – which needless to say does not help the depression!

Leave a Reply to Cheryl Harrington Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*