Over the entire course of my depression experience, especially when I was officially diagnosed, I always assumed the way that I experienced my depression was drastically different than others. It was not until I started opening up with others who have depression that I realized that my experience was not abnormal. These are all the things I wished were discussed about depression. If this resonates with you, welcome to the warriors’ club and if you have not experienced depression, here are things that you should know about our experiences.
- Disassociation: This is literally an out-of-body experience. Your mind and your body become separate entities that you are forced to navigate regardless of if you know how. They often fight with each other.
- Numbness: This does not only apply to the mental state either. You physically cannot feel anything. Not your stomach begging you for food, not the hot water burning your skin, and during the act of sex you must imagine what it used to feel like because you cannot feel that either. This can last for months at a time.
- “The Sunken Place”: Not just a metaphor of interracial dating with awful intentions. It literally feels like the “you” that everyone knows is getting pulled deeper and deeper while someone you do not recognize takes control while you are gone. They say the eyes are the window to the soul but what happens when your soul is no longer there? What do people see?
- Questioning: Constantly wondering if you truly feel this way or if you are confusing this moment for something else. This becomes an internal debate about your own depression. It does not help that people question your experience either. It is almost like they need to see you in a body bag to grasp the full picture.
- Energy: People assume we isolate ourselves because we are too sad. This is only a fraction of what is going on. People’s presence is overbearing. It requires too much energy to even look at a person let alone have a conversation with them.
- It is Deadly: While this may be obvious to some of you, what is not is how deadly it really is. It has so far killed more people than warfare, terrorism, gun violence, domestic abuse, and assault (p. 25 “Reasons to Stay Alive”).
- Illness: Shocking to some but no surprise to others is that depression weakens your immune system. This makes it easier for you to get sick and be sick more often.
- Food: Depressed people’s bodies either cannot get enough of eating food (hence why they need to eat so much) or their body rejects it. What is even more complex is some folks go through waves where they experience both extremes. Solids tend to not be my friend during these moments.
- Genetics: Not only does genetics play a role in who is more likely to have a mental illness, your genes are constantly altering to deal with it. These changes in genetics will be passed down to your offspring. Whether or not they experience mental illness will be determined on their environment and how they react to it. Good news is that there are ways to fix that!
- Class, Race, and Gender: One’s intersections will determine how one may express and experience depression. Those who are marginalized, from low-income households, and navigate life through a male lens will be more likely to experience depression through aggression, outbursts, physical pain, discomfort, and so on.
Everyone’s depression experience and how extreme they feel will vary from person to person based on many factors. Regardless of how your depression experience is, know that your experience is valid and deserves to be understood. The notion that we must explain all the above to our support systems when we have reached the point that all we want to do is off ourselves is something that can take a lot of energy, strength, and courage. If you do this, be extremely proud of yourself. If you cannot, no worries, send this article to them. I got you covered. We are losing way too many people for folks to continue to downplay depression. We must no longer allow people to suffer and die in silence.
Haig, M. (2016). Killer. In Reasons to Stay Alive (pp. 25-26). Toronto, Ontario: HaperCollins.
Wolynn, M. (2017). It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle. New York, New York: Penguin Publishing Group.