I decided if I am to write a blog it needs to be based upon my own personal experience. If you read the rest of this piece, then read it with that caveat in mind.
I’ve learned a lot about depression over the past couple years. For one, I’ve learned it has many faces. It does not always look like the person in the commercials who sits in a dark room with shades drawn and tears running down their cheeks. It is true, it can present itself in the form of melancholy, lethargy and glumness. It can also leave you feeling uninspired, unmotivated and drowning in a feeling of hopelessness.
Sometimes, however, it can be masked in a facade of smiles. It may allow for enough energy to fake your way through the necessary parts of your day, but leave you with nothing left in the tank to do much else. If you are a high functioning depressive you might keep yourself busy at all times to keep the dark feelings at bay.
When you think of depression be aware. It may not always look like what you think it should.
Depression can be situational, but it doesn’t always have to be. You may feel sad because something traumatic has happened in your life. An important relationship ended, your health changed, you lost your job, you lost someone you loved; these are all emotional and life altering events that can contribute to feelings of despair. But many times, depression might find its way in without any sort of invitation.
There are people in the world who have suffered greatly, but have found a way to live happily. In contrast, there are others who live a privileged life with an abundance of blessings, but feel dejected. Several years ago my nephew, who comes from a blessed upper class upbringing, traveled to a third world country to volunteer at a children’s camp. I remember he wrote home and could not believe how this part of the world lived. What made the biggest impression were the children who had no shoes and sometimes no pants, but were the happiest children he had ever met. There are individuals in this world whose situation seems like justifiable reasons to be sad and yet they are not. And then sometimes we have no obvious reasons to feel disheartened, but we do.
This brings me to my next point about depression. It is not a mind over matter situation. My husband once told me “You cannot think your way out of depression.” It is not about emotional strength or intelligence. Many uninformed people believe if you are depressed it is simply because you refuse to look at the bright side.
Anyone who knows me and my personal situation knows I’ve had several legitimate reasons over the past couple years to feel unhappy. They also know I’ve done my best to find the positive in any given situation.
I’ve let myself grieve and feel sad when the feelings arise, but I’ve also tried to look at the ‘bright side.’
I don’t succumb easily and allow myself to wallow for too long in my sadness. I fight it every step of the way. I acknowledge my blessings. I run to gain endorphins. I practice yoga to find peace and strength. I eat healthy. I take care of myself. Yet, it might not always be enough. If mind over matter were a solution I would have saved myself many days of pure and utter sadness.
I know what joy feels like, and when I cannot find it despite how hard I try, I acknowledge I cannot solve this alone.
Therapy. I’ve went for years. I go to therapy when everything in life is in harmony and I feel fantastic. I go to therapy when I need to work out specific issues. I go to therapy when I need empathy. I go to therapy because it has helped me work through issues of divorce, mixed families, job changes, illness, grief and more. We see dentists for our teeth and doctors for our bodies. Why is it so difficult to admit we want to see someone for our emotional health?
Therapy can be an invaluable tool and a saving grace. Even then, it cannot always independently solve the problem of ‘why do I feel depressed.’
So if it isn’t always situational, a mind over matter problem or in issue to be solved by talking it through, what else could it be?
Sometimes depression is chemical. Sometimes it is hormonal. Sometimes the neurons aren’t firing and we cannot fix it with therapy, exercise and positive thinking. Maybe we need vitamins or supplements. Maybe we need to change birth control. Perhaps we are deficient of a necessary mineral in our body, like Vitamin D. Our thyroid might not be operating effectively. Our hormones might be out of whack.
Sometimes our depression is a symptom of something happening within our cells, not our thoughts.
So if you are still reading this and you have struggled with feeling dejected, disheartened and sad please know there is hope. If I have not addressed your specific feelings, it is only because I am writing from my place of understanding.
And my journey has taught me if you are feeling depressed, see a therapist, get a THOROUGH blood panel done, ask for help and know you are not alone.
The sun rises and sets, and with each new day brings hope. You bring beauty to this world. You were put on this earth for a specific reason. You have changed someone’s life in some special way. You are needed. You are loved.
I do want you to know, personally I am in a good place. Otherwise, the apathy that plagued me in the last couple months would have prevented me from writing a piece like this. Like most people, I go through times I feel depressed, but I have all the appropriate resources in place when I do. I know when I feel sad and I know there are things I can do to improve my mood. I take the appropriate measures to feel better. I talk to my husband. I see my therapist. I have blood drawn by my doctor.
As I had predicted, a few weeks ago my labs told a story and explained why I felt the way I did. My hormone and thyroid levels were off and no matter how much I tried to think ‘positively’ and no matter how hard I tried to work through my depression with sheer will and grit, it was a battle I could not win alone.
I wrote this piece because my struggles have always taught me my best lessons. But mainly I wrote this piece to let those who’ve ever suffered from depression, you are never alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255