Have you seen the kid’s 2000’s film Holes? There’s this line repeated throughout the film about an ancestor that steals a pig and ended up cursing his family with bad luck for generations. They call him: No-Good-Dirty-Rotten-Pig-Stealing-Great-Great Grandfather.
That’s how I feel about depression. It is a no good, dirty, rotten, joy-stealing jerk that has cursed me for the rest of my life and generations to come. Dramatic? Maybe a little. To be honest, my depression had been more dormant in 2022 than ever before. That, my friends, is worth celebrating. But even though my good days outweigh my depressed ones, depression finds its way back, making a grand entrance, rearing its ugly head, gnashing his teeth, bringing me to my knees.
This happened last weekend. I had a fine day; I slept in a little, had my favorite tea, played video games with people I love, and then had a special dinner planned for my parent’s anniversary. All day I felt good, stable, light, happy, maybe a little irritable when I lost at the video games, but depression free. And then, somewhere between picking out an outfit for dinner and putting the outfit on, depression had taken over.
Here's how it feels for me: it’s like someone dumped a room temperature, maybe slightly frigid, black sludge over the top of my head. It slides down my face, covering my eyes in darkness, filling my mouth so I can’t scream. It’s sticky and heavy; every movement feels belabored and slow. And then as the sludge chills on my skin, it hardens, and I am frozen in place: in bed, on the couch, enveloped in blackness. But this is just how I would describe it. Depression does not feel the same for everyone, but there are common elements.
I took the time to ask a few clients and friends what depression feels like for them. Here are some of their responses:
“I feel like I am in a fog or walking into a cloud.”
“Picture Eeyore, or a cartoon character with a cloud following it everywhere, constantly raining.”
“It comes on in an instant and suffocates me.”
“It feels vast and endless, dark and formidable, like space.”
“Depression brings shame. I feel guilt for having it, despite having a good life.”
“It’s like sinking into a bed surrounded by darkness or sitting deep into a large bean bag that’s really hard to get out of.”
“Depression happens suddenly. Sometimes, it’s like sitting in a movie with a crowd, and I am laughing at a scene, but suddenly the reel cuts out and I can’t see what the rest of the audience is laughing at. I sit there, quietly alone, yet surrounded by people, in the dark.”
Darkness, heaviness, isolation, three of the most common feelings of depression.
Depression is not a choice. Medication is not a Band-Aid; medication helps many folks get through their day. Depression can be temporary, or situational, like in response to grief. But for many of us, it is persistent.
Depression also can cause psycho-somatic symptoms, like stomach aches or chronic pain and migraines, even memory loss. It is a mind-body illness that can impact us mentally, physically, relationally, and spiritually. It can tear relationship bonds. It is pervasive and exhausting, every day a battle.
As previously mentioned, medication can help. Therapy can help as well; many clinicians recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings and actions, and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) which focuses on distress tolerance. All therapists and licensed social workers are qualified to use these treatment modalities, but some may specialize in one over another. A license, in my opinion, comes second in importance to the relationship between client and clinician.
If you are looking for a therapist who can help, reach out to CCA. We have many fantastic clinicians who can help you find the right fit for you. Depression may be chronic, but it can be managed, even go into remission. There is hope.