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The Feelings of a Major Depressive Episode

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I occasionally get asked what it feels like to have depression. Here’s my best attempt to put into words the effect that a major depressive episode has on my body and emotions. Remember that everyone experiences depression differently, so while these are my experiences they may not be true for you or someone you know.

I’m sad all the time. Like being on the verge of tears. It feels a little bit like grief, but I don’t know what I’m grieving about and nobody has died. I have no reason to be sad  my personal and professional life is going well. I’m not a crier, but now I cry a lot. The sadness often comes from thinking about my family watching me go through this. The tears come when I start thinking about tomorrow, and how this will be waiting for me yet again.

I have headaches and muscle aches. It feels like I have the flu, but I know I don’t because it doesn’t get better with time. I get hungry, so I eat something. Almost immediately afterward I feel nauseous and regret eating. Sometimes I have to force myself to eat. My back hurts, maybe from laying in bed so much, or maybe just because my brain has gone haywire. Sometimes I even have a low grade fever. The war in my mind is spilling out into my body, and it’s hard to make sense of it all.

I’m tired, so tired. I lay in bed a lot. Getting out of bed is so difficult it might as well be the same as running a marathon. Sometimes I take two naps a day and then sleep for 8-9 hours at night. Sometimes I can’t sleep even though my body is tired my brain is going 1000 miles per hour in a mix of anxiety and rumination. I’ve never been this anxious, exhausted, and irritable in my life.

I feel like I’m walking in mud. Every step takes a little more out of me. Basic household tasks are like mountain climbing. It is almost impossible to concentrate and focus on even the most thoughtless work. I get distracted easily, and it takes all my will to finish doing what I started. My mind is foggy, and my memory isn’t reliable.

I have suicidal thoughts. Usually they are passive and fleeting, but sometimes they stick around in my head for minutes and hours. It’s not so much that I want to die, I just want it all to end. I don’t know how much longer I can stand living like this, and that thought scares me. The mental torment is real, and I feel like the cares of the world are destroying my soul.

It is in times like these I have to convince myself that tomorrow will be better. That’s how I survive the dark cloud of a major depressive episode. And then tomorrow I will do the same all over again, telling myself if I just keep moving forward, someday things will be better. It’s awfully hard to remember the good days in times like this, and it takes all the energy I can muster.

Those are my feelings. Can you relate? What’s your experience with depression?

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Image via Thinkstock. 

Originally published: September 12, 2016
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