If only I recognized the signs and got help early…
Signs of a depressed mood include -
- Lowered self-esteem (or self-worth).
- Change in sleep patterns, that is, insomnia or broken sleep.
- Changes in appetite or weight.
- Less ability to control emotions such as pessimism, anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety.
- Varying emotions throughout the day, for example, feeling worse in the morning and better as the day progresses.
- Reduced capacity to experience pleasure: you can’t enjoy what’s happening now, nor look forward to anything with pleasure. Hobbies and interests drop off.
- Reduced pain tolerance: you are less able to tolerate aches and pains and may have a host of new ailments.
- Changed sex drive: absent or reduced.
- Poor concentration and memory: some people are so impaired that they think that they are going demented.
- Reduced motivation: it doesn’t seem worth the effort to do anything, things seem meaningless.
- Lowered energy levels.
If you have such feelings and they persist for most of every day for two weeks or longer, and interfere with your ability to manage at home and at work, then you might benefit by having an assessment by a Mood Disorder Specialist.
The same can be said of overcoming depression. In the beginning I was naïve, believing that depression was curable, that I would wake up one morning and it will be gone. But I know now this is never going to be the case. To overcome depression requires strength, persistence and a lot of hard work And sometimes, even when you try your hardest, it just doesn’t seem to be good enough. The key to winning the battle with depression is to never give up, no matter how dark, how hopeless, how difficult things seem…*
I am well aware that it is simplistic to suggest that simply changing the name of a condition could possibly improve it in some way. However, for me, knowing that today, and throughout history, many of the world’s most accomplished and talented individuals have suffered melancholy helps to remind me that I am in exalted company; that those of us who are doomed to suffer are not condemned or unlucky but, in fact, quite the opposite: we have been given the opportunity, even the privilege, of using our acute state of mind to see through the shallowness and meaninglessness that pervades the lives of so many less-fortunate individuals who cannot accept that we are not meant to be happy all the time, or who fail to realise that success is often empty and always fleeting, and that fulfilment is not to be found in material possessions, in ownership or domination of others, in power or status, or in physical perfection, and that tragedies and death, too, must be embraced – that for some things there are no answers other than faith, endurance or just acceptance.
If I were to name one thing that has defined my journey out of the depression maze, it would have to be acceptance – the ‘letting go’ of my instinctive tendency to resist ‘what is’. Resistance and acceptance are opposite sides of the same coin. Resistance is like jumping into a river and trying to hold back the water; acceptance is allowing the water to wash over you and continue its journey.* (557)
There is no magic formula…
… no blueprint or map; the road can be stony and steep, and crowded with setbacks walling in ambush, but the reward of knowing that you are living with depression on your terms rather than the black dog’s constitutes the cornerstone of recovery.
Living with it involves accepting ownership. Clinical depression is a profoundly lonely, disabling and utterly subjective experience. All depressives forge their own chains, and therein lies one of the affliction’s most malignant aspects. One size certainly doesn’t fit all when it comes to considering how to live with depression. A healing template to fit every sufferer simply isn’t available. Just as you somehow found your own way down into this ark labyrinth, you must somehow find your own way out. Of course, loyal friends, loving relatives and professional counsellors can be of great help – sometimes immeasurably so – but the escape plan must come from inside yourself. And although it might sound preposterous to say so (given the incredible pain of clinical depression), you must genuinely want to escape.
‘I think, therefore I am,’ the seventeenth-century philosopher Rene Descartes famously declared in five words. The addition of a single word registers ownership of my black dog: ‘I think, therefore I am depressed.’ My way of thinking is down to personality more than anything else – I’ve always been inclined to see the glass as half empty rather than half full and must constantly struggle to escape the grotesque reality of a world perpetually crippled by poverty, bigotry and war.
For me, living with the black dog is a matter of perception rather than chemistry. When the TV newsreader warns me – all too often lately, it seems – that the next story contains images I might find distressing, I can press a button and look elsewhere. Life is not so amenable. The human brain is fearfully complex. However, it now seems clear that the biochemistry of a depressed person’s brain is different to that of someone who isn’t depressed. But which came first – the altered chemistry or the negative perception of reality?
Therefore, the central thrust of my efforts to live with depression, on my terms, concerns doing whatever I can to work towards a decent, tolerant and more compassionate world.* (117)
… requires constant surveillance and vigilance. Instead of forging on as if nothing were amiss, next time I will know to back off, slow down and change things.* (346)