People often ask me what it's like to have depression, and I always find it difficult to answer. How can I describe a continual downward spiral? The unending misery, the total lethargy, the lack of anything to look forward to? The aches and pains? The strong desire to just curl up under my quilt and never come out? The way food became something I just put in my mouth periodically because I knew I should - not because I actually wanted to?
Imagine that you have a can of soup strapped to each of your hands and feet, and that you are wearing false eyelashes. It's okay for a little while, but imagine carrying that load all the time. No matter what you do, that heavy feeling is with you. You try to live a normal life but everything is that little bit harder, and takes that little bit longer. This will give you just a glimmer of what it is like to live with depression.
Now take the cans away, gradually, one at a time. Stretch. Enjoy the sensation. There, feels better doesn't it! Another can gone -wow, look what you can do now! Finally remove those false eyelashes that make your eyelids feel so heavy. Isn't it wonderful! Don't you feel free! You can run and jump and sing and laugh. This is exactly the difference medication can make in the life of a person stricken with depression.
I think the best way to describe my recent brush with depression is to say that I felt 'brain dead'. It's almost like the last three months have been lost in the mists.
Normally I am 'quick' and 'on the ball' but overnight I became very forgetful. I mislaid keys, books and other items. I forgot appointments. I would even find myself standing in the supermarket, knowing that I needed to purchase three items, yet totally unable to recall what the third item was!
I found all my relationships suffered because I lost my ability to communicate. I just didn't feel I had anything to talk about to family and friends. Although some of them chided me for not reaching out to them when I needed help, how could I make them understand that just to pick up the phone and make small talk, or even remember current events in their lives, was completely beyond me? I would completely lose my train of thought in the middle of conversations with my husband, to the point where I was struggling to even complete one sentence. Believe me, this is an alarming symptom in a gal who has been blessed with the gift of the gab!
Praying became almost impossible. I felt terrible that my walk with the Lord was suffering. But one day I had a revelation. All of my relationships were suffering because of my depression. It didn't mean that I loved my husband, my children, my friends any less. And it's the same with God! My relationship with Him suffers when I have depression. Although I lose my ability to communicate, to pray, it doesn't mean that I love Him any less!
My concentration was shot to pieces. Although I normally love to write and read, I just didn't seem to have the attention span necessary. Nothing gripped my attention enough to keep me concentrating.
I had no plans for the future because I was unable to think past the misery and the present day. I lost the joy of anticipation. What are you looking forward to right now? An upcoming vacation? A birthday? Getting together with friends on the weekend? Going to the movies or a concert? Getting married? Having a baby? Finishing your studies? Now imagine all that is taken away from you and you will have some idea of how a person with depression feels.
Research has now proven that many of the electrical impulses in the brain are 'dulled' in a person who suffers from depression. Perhaps this is why I felt brain dead. Pleasure centres especially are affected; yet pain seems to be magnified. When I learnt this, I realised why I was plagued with headaches and migraines, which mostly disappeared once I started taking anti-depressants!
People often joke that when a woman falls pregnant, she loses her brain. When she has the baby, she only gets half of it back! If this is true in your life, I urge you to seek help. Even if you haven't had a baby! Hey, you could be a guy for all I know! As you can see from my story, feeling 'brain dead' for an extended period of time could indicate underlying problems. The good news is, it CAN be treated and soon you will be feeling just like your old self again.
Paula C. Whitehouse for A Scarlet Rope of Hope