What They Don’t Tell You About a Depression Diagnosis
I want to tell people the truth about depression. I know many people who are under the impression that it is only “feeling sad,” or “not having energy,” and while these are parts of it, there are so many more aspects of it. Even worse, depression has been romanticized in popular culture, which is where the joke of “all 14-year-old girls have depression” comes from. The general public seems to be under a misconception that people who claim to have depression are “overly dramatic.” Rather than argue, I will break down the National Institute of Mental Health’s definition of depression, and give further examples of the illness.
“Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder.”
Yes, it says serious, but is it really taken seriously?
“It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.”
In other words, you could potentially sleep your life away. That’s right. Hours upon hours just in your bed, fighting to get up, but you physically cannot do it. When you do finally muster enough energy and willpower to get out of bed, you eat whatever is quick and available to you at the time. Often it is something full of carbs and not exactly healthy. This is a great way to kick start a major weight gain. And working? You can barely get out of bed to say hello to your mom. You really think you will just be able to get up and go to work with other people? Please…
“To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.”
Well, it says two weeks, but it’ll be much much longer before you consider it a problem. In fact, it’ll be so much longer, you could dig yourself into a dark hole to the point where even when you contemplate getting some help, you don’t even see a reason for it. In your mind, there is no escape.
Now let’s get into some of the signs and symptoms!
“Persistent sad, anxious, or ’empty’ mood.”
And now we get into the part of depression that is misunderstood. See how it says “persistent sad”? It is not talking about having one bad day. It is not talking about crying after someone is mean to you, and you get over it the next day. This feeling of sadness, it is all encompassing. It is the only thing you feel, all the time. Anxious? This is not talking about being nervous for a performance, or meeting someone new. This is a constant feeling. This feeling makes you sick, probably every day. You wake up anxious, you go to bed anxious (if you even sleep at all…. but we can dive into this later). “Empty mood”? You probably feel nothing if you don’t feel sad or anxious. Yes, this includes family dinners, shopping and even playing with your dog. You would think you’d feel happy, right? Nope. You feel nothing.
“Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.”
Feelings of guilt… you know what this includes? The fact that you can see you are breaking your mother’s heart, but feel guilty because you can’t stop it, or don’t know how. You feel worthless, but this is because you are not able to see all the happiness around you. You don’t feel worthy of happiness, so you do everything to avoid it, or reject it. And helplessness. Of course you feel helpless! You are walking around feeling broken and empty. What else are you going to feel?
“Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities.”
You know what they should’ve included here? Loss of interest in everything. You don’t just lose interest in your daily mile runs, you lose interest and pleasure in spending time with family. You lose interest in listening to music. You lose interest in talking to friends (even though they’ve been pretty worried since they haven’t heard from you in a while).
“Decreased energy or fatigue.”
Oh, and you don’t have energy for literally anything. You can barely get out of bed to shower. This small task is impossible in your mind. It can get a little gross too. You may go days without showering… and this is because you just. Cannot. Get out. Of bed.
“Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.”
Well, you probably slept throughout the day, so you are awake at night. Now, you get to sit and think about all the horrible things about yourself. You think about how much you are neglecting your family. All your poor mom wants is for you to sit with her in the living room. She is begging you, but you still don’t do it. Now, you can think about the fact that she was crying over this. Why? She wants to help you. She wants to save you from yourself. She thinks she failed somewhere as a mother, but the problem is you. She cannot save you from yourself, since you cannot do that either. And your little brother? All he wants is to watch a movie with his big sister. He’s asked at least three times. You tell him no, even though you have nothing better to do. Now he thinks you hate him. He thinks it’s just because you don’t want to hangout with him. You want to explain that this is not true, it has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with you.
Oh, look at that. It’s 2am now.
“Appetite and/or weight changes.”
Remember when you were down in weight? And now you weigh more than usual? How did that happen is such a short span of time? How could you let yourself gain all that weight? Now your clothes don’t fit anymore. Cool, another reason to stay awake all night hating yourself.
“Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.”
I mean, what’s the point? You pushed all your friends away. You don’t do anything with your life anymore. You are even hurting your family! Great. Now you are letting your personal problems spill out onto others.
Would it really even matter if you were gone?
Yes, it would matter.
I hope my story sheds light on the part of depression that never gets talked about. Depression is so much more than a feeling, and it affects all aspects of one’s life.
I’m sharing my experience with depression so others know they are not alone. Even though it may seem you are facing this battle by yourself, there are others who can help and identify with you. You are loved and needed.
It gets better.
Getty image by Lepusinensis