Depression, a mood disorder that is understood by so many...it is just an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isn't it? It is a conversation that I will have to have with my son someday. I know this, and I have thought about how to describe what depression truly is, not what some clinician writes in a book about it - I will provide him with those too...but try to define it in the best way possible so there can be a sense of understanding for him. Among people who have this disorder there is but one commonality that I have found when talking to others (beyond the sadness) and that is the darkness. Other than that it affects everyone in a different way. Some feel as if they are being chased. You have heard me talk about the feeling of drowning. Some feel trapped. The best way I know how to describe this thing that is labeled "depression" and everything it encompasses is to have you imagine the following scenario:
Picture a room with no windows, one door, the light switch is over near that door. Inside this room is a desk, chair, couch, tables, a lamp, computer...everything you need to work and spend a good portion of your time (keep in mind that there are breakable things on those tables and on that desk). It is a very comfortable place for you. Co-workers, friends, family....they all come into this room from time to time. Its every bit a home to you.
Now, that light bulb starts to dim. Slowly at first and you think you can fix it by screwing it in, by wiggling it, anything except taking it out and changing it...you can feel the darkness creeping in, but you will do anything to hold it off. All of a sudden the light bulb turns off and the door slams shut! At first you take a few steadying breathes and try to change the light bulb. Soon you discover that it is not working, so you get up to see if someone flipped the switch. By this time the tightness has started. As you get up to try to turn on the light you are told you have a hot project for work to complete. You try to focus and do that but the phone rings and you are told not to forget the responsibilities of your home life. All this time all you can think of is I need to turn on that light before someone notices. You begin to have bursts of emotions that you cannot control, you cry for no reason, Panic sets in.
With work and home by the time you get up to try to find that light switch in the pitch black the furniture has moved. You knock into the first table and it pushes you back and you get a little frustrated but know you need to try again. Wait, more work more responsibilities and you have got to remember not to break anything. By this time your friends and family and sometimes your co-workers have noticed what is going on. You try again; the room seems to have shifted on you and you are frightened and do not know what to do, you just want the light turned on. By this time the people in your life are in your head, sometimes in that room with you asking you "why don't you just turn the light on? C'Mon you can do this!!! It's right there just turn the light on." Fear, Panic, Desperation sets in. (don't forget all this time you are bursting into tears for no reason...or for some raging in unaccounted for anger and expected to keep up with your life and that of your significant other and children if you have any)
As well meaning as they are it scares you more, frustrates you more and makes you even more desperate. You start to turn in circles. You now have no idea which way you are facing, what is in front of you or if the room is in shambles - you know you have broken something. This irritates those people that do not understand and they tell you to snap out of it. Or the people that do understand become short with you and tell you just come on already, hasn't this lasted long enough. And that, that's when you give up. You just cannot do it any more. Because really, is it all worth it??? The constant nagging, the constant fear, the constant panic, the constant lack of understanding for what you are going through, the constant feeling that you are letting the people that care down, the constant frustration, AND ALL THAT CRYING!!!
Is It Worth It? Wouldn't it be better off if I was gone? Wouldn't everyone else be better off not worrying about me and my mess ups? Those are the questions that race through your mind and won't stop even for a few hours to let you sleep. Some people just sit in that darkness for a very long time because they have given up. Others commit suicide in order to escape that never ending darkness.
And then there are those that decide it is worth it and try again and again or reach out because they are the lucky ones. The lucky ones have someone who physically walks into that room to take them by the hand and lead them to the light switch. I used to have someone who sat right by that door and never let it slam shut. I always had a little ray of light shining into that room so I could eventually find my way. It was actually 2 someones and they understood I had to do it alone and I knew they were always there to help me find my way.
No one can turn that switch on for us. But, we can always use a lead to guide us...a life saving device...our own personal night light. No one is more afraid of the (figurative) dark than someone with depression.