What is Depression?
Depression is a big word in today’s society. Everyone experiences depression in a different way. According to the dictionary depression is the feeling of severe despondency and dejection.
Depression can, just like anything, come in different forms and sizes. Ranging from situational to clinical to even bipolar depressions.
Some people confuse depression with the temporary feeling of being sad, making no distinction between the two. For others depression is a forbidden topic. Something that some people have but can’t be understood and is best not to be discussed. Some believe depression is a choice, simply because our emotions and responses are so difficult to understand and it is easier to believe that we are all completely in control of how we feel and how we react to the responses around us. People therefore find more comfort in dismissing any other cases as “crazy” or “attention-craving”. Although these responses feel hostile and ignorant, it does not mean that those with mental illnesses don’t end up acting according to these definitions. But the choice to seek attention or act crazy is not an act of theatre but rather a cry of help from the depths of a tormented mind.
Depression. A feeling. A trap. A voice of hopelessness. A chemical imbalance. The brain’s way of dealing with a situation. Some describe themselves as “being” depressed rather than “having” depression. The depression becomes a new identity that individuals embrace as their own in a desperate attempt to make sense of these new or even typical sensations. “Because if these strong emotions and gloomy views of the world aren’t me, then who am I and what is real?”
I am not worthy or wise enough to truly define this epidemic of uncertainty and suicidality in people. What I feel and say is not the key to understanding what goes on in our minds, but I can try to explain what “depression” has meant in my life. Perhaps this insight of what it means to be depressed can shed some light on those who have difficulty understanding it. Or perhaps it may help you empathize and help those you know who have been labeled with this thing. I conclude this because in my understanding, depression can’t be described in one word.
I am 17 years old, my story is complicated, but my views on life had always been sharp. My sense of justice was clear, there were not blurred lines, for as most teenagers, I felt that I knew enough to answer every problem with distinct reason and logic behind it. It seemed that this need of clear definite answers to the world became a gateway for the sad, the self doubt, the isolation, and the irrationality in my emotions to come. Questions of my existence and place in this world turned into sleepless nights of the realization that nothing mattered in the grand scheme of things.
Some people might be able to accept this philosophy of life. Many can just shrug it off and make the most of the “meaningless” life they have and hence create their own meaning and legacy. But for someone who was raised with ideals of everyone being important to a larger than life entity; For someone who had always accepted the evolutionary purpose of life to be the only reasonable explanation for life, survival and progress, and thus also merging amongst the “realists” of this world, it was never hard to just “YOLO” throughout these philosophical questions.
But suddenly it all mattered. My existence no longer made sense. Society was confusing and the world was scary. I was merely an in sequential mark on a tiny planet that also was nothing compared to the infinite everything. Something I had once just accepted as fact was the reason I could not eat or sleep or relate to people. Day by day loved ones meant less to me and eventually the idea of depression crossed my mind. Research led me, to once again the logical explanation of this sensation. A chemical imbalance, a genetic flaw, simply a trick being played on my mind. It didn’t help to say the least.
Now my every action felt like a symptom. Just a reaction followed by a neurotransmitters flying across synapses in my brain, just as it was sought out to happen. My own actions and those of this new present emotion were indistinguishable. My existence was now not only meaningless but governed by a force that I felt no control over, despite knowing exactly what it was. Eventually I embraced my new glasses for the world.
The world was a ruse, a ploy, a trick. But my glasses allowed me to see the reality. Everything is grey, senseless and non-existence. It’s all a dream. The philosophy of the world being nothing was suddenly my new wisdom. Everyone else was living a dream, trying to embrace the ignorance that any of us should live. The idea of death became my escape. The one choice I seemed to have in this predictable world. Fantasies became actions that never went further due to the primal instinct of survival engrained into my anxious brain.
My family I loved only by coincidence. I could easily have not been born or had different family.
By default our brains long for human connections. Every piece of my humanity I saw as a weakness, I became disgusted with myself. Sometimes I would escape in a movie or a video
game with the voice in the back letting me know that it is all superficial. I began to become
overwhelmed with all the thoughts. Atoms, planets, alternate universes, life forms, time; these themes cycled around me until nothing made sense. Frustrated, hopeless trapped and analysing even the words on this digital paper just drains me more. I fall further into the feeling of simply existing. I exist. I know that, but everything else is now irrelevant, any empathetic choices I make are simply ingrained, but they mean nothing. I have lost friends and people who wanted to fix me but left in frustration that I couldn’t be what they wanted me to be. Seemingly swallowing pills by the dozen and embracing the feeling of nothing. When I break down and it all comes down to it, all I can say and think is that I am tired, I am done, I don’t want this, take it away from me, give it to someone who wants it. Desperate quiet cries that bounce off the walls until I can get back up and keep existing in this place where I want to be dead but am afraid to die. Where I love my family and friends, but truly believe that they all mean nothing and that the very instinct that allows me to love them is a ruse too. I know the skills that they teach me daily. I know what to do to fit back into “normality”. I know time is short and that I am “wasting it.” I know that others are worse off. But I no longer have the want to change or to do anything but lay in bed and close my eyes and never wake up to the gray colors of this world.
So what is depression? Honestly, I don’t really know. Most likely it is a number of things ranging from the brain’s reaction to trauma to chemical imbalances carried through genetics. When my therapist asked me to write this essay you are reading right now, many things came to mind.
What do I write? What can I say? Is there anything that I can contribute to on this topic, as
someone who second guesses the very existence of depression in my thought processes? We all have morbid thoughts here and there, but when does it reach the point of needing medical attention? There is a logical explanation to everything. But who ever said depression had to be logical. Because in my experience, it has brought nothing but confusion.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies with a speciality in CBT techniques. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr. Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who find taking therapy online as convenient and tailored for their needs. More Details HERE