I believe most of us know about depression, having experienced it in varying degrees as we grow up and grow older. I have had the clinical symptoms of clinical depression since I was 15 years old. That’s going on forty years now. At first, and for many years, I didn’t understand that the way I felt was so deeply altering and guiding my path through life. I’m just coming out of what they call a major depressive episode… and I want to share as much as I can in hopes it may be able to help others.
According to the US National Institute of Health, 16 million adults in the United States have suffered from a major depressive episode at least once. An episode is defined as “A period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, self-image or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.”
The most fundamental expression of my condition feels like a heavy, wet blanket. I can feel it, physically, settling into my shoulders and neck. It clouds my mind like a thick fog. I feel pessimistic, sad, lonely. And I make bad choices hoping to feel better. That nagging voice in my head tells me it’s my fault, that I have no worth. In College, my internal mantra was “nothing matters, and what if it did?” It meant that life has no meaning. Existential nihilism at it’s finest.
That inner monologue, which I think of as Radio64, is me of course. It’s some part of me that is both childish and wickedly cruel. It knows how to cut me down and undermine my sense of self. It attempts to rationalize the cruelty by insinuating it’s all my fault and that I’m worthless. Nothing Radio64 offers holds up to any rational scrutiny.
But that doesn’t matter. Radio64 is the ice-cream truck bringing me sweet relief. Radio64 gives out pretty bags of delicious, but ultimate candy. When I’m tired or frustrated or sad, Radio64 gives out pretty bags of delicious, but ultimately poisonous candy. For me, it’s astounding that some part of me is so viciously self-sabotaging. But being aware of it is a key to overcoming depression.
I’m going to write more about living with major depression in coming days and weeks, but I want to leave you with one of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard… this TED talk by Brené Brown which has inspired and refreshed me several times over the years.
Please feel free to comment and to share. And if you’re suffering right now, know that you are not the only one, you are not alone and you can overcome.