Art by DestinyBlue
I had always intended to write a post about depression. I continually put it off because it isn't really something I like to talk about. I'm thankful that it is more out in the open, that people are talking about it, bringing this disease into the light, because for all the years I have been battling it, it was something to keep hidden because to everyone not affected by it, it's not a real thing. It's something in my head, not a real disease. When you grow up this way, you learn to keep quiet, to fight your battles silently, to smile at the whole world on the outside while inside you're screaming and wishing for an end.
Today I read a post on Facebook. I was going to just leave it be, but afterwards I went into the garden, and as I was working away, what I had seen started eating away at me. It occurred to me that although the guy in the video thinks he's helping, and maybe even people who are sharing the video think they're helping, it's actually belittling the disease. It is a classic "just get over it" mentality, which has long plagued depression and kept it in the shadows. So as I stewed I realized that this is almost a case of 'one step forward, two steps back', here we are, dragging depression, and mental illnesses of all kinds, into the light, trying to help those affected, and someone pops up giving some terrible advice to drag us all back to the stone ages. Telling someone with depression to just wait until it passes is essentially treating acne by bloodletting, which they actually did in the seventeenth century.
See the video here.
The comment is what actually set me off. Because he's actually saying that you need to get over it. That, ladies and gents, is the two steps back I referred to earlier.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, there is a difference between opinion and basically giving medical advice. In your opinion, I am sad, so I should just wait for it to pass. In reality, I have a medically diagnosed illness that requires medication, and actually will not 'pass' if I just wait long enough (trust me, I have tried). The 'depression' that he is talking about in his video is not the real thing. Everyone gets sad sometimes, and he is right, that will pass. Even heavy sadness following the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship is extreme and weighs you down, but it is a temporary feeling, and you will eventually get past it.
I do think the analogies he uses in the video are actually correct - just not in the way he intends. Yes, the sky (you) is always there and the clouds (depression) come and go, but if you look around, you'll probably see more clouds, even if the patch of sky right above you at the moment is clear. Sometimes they're even angrier than the ones that just passed. And that is depression. Real, clinical depression. Look up at the sky. More often than not there are clouds. The patches of clear sky are much fewer. So it is with depression. You have clear days. You have days when you can function as a regular human being. You can get up in the morning and have a full day of just being a person. Not exhausted, not sick, and it's glorious. Then the clouds come back. And they always do.
Second analogy, same thing. The remote control is in the picture, then it's not, then it is. Again, it comes back. Only this time he's proving my point even more: He never lets go of the remote. He's holding it the whole time. Depression is like that. It's always there, even when its not, except that it holds you, not the other way around.
Art by 113-nk
So let's take a look at depression, what causes it? I want to talk about it in the clinic sense, not my fiancee just left me at the altar and I'm going to eat ice cream until my tears are done. Medical science is not exactly sure what causes depression, their best guesses are that many factors are at play, environmental, psychological, and biological. For the sake of this post, I only want to focus on the biological factors. In other words, I want to tell you what goes on inside your brain that can cause depression. Why? Because I want to show you that those same things going on in my brain that are causing the depression that you may not see as a real disease are actual, real things that I can't just wait until they pass.
One of the biological factors that lead to depression is low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical in your body which carries signals along and between your nerves. It's a neurotransmitter which is mainly found in the brain, bowel, and blood platelets. Symptoms of low serotonin levels can include:
Having low serotonin levels doesn't necessarily mean you automatically have depression. In fact, it could actually be worse. Other illnesses and conditions associated with low levels include: fibromyalgia, TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and asthma. Let's not forget OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), anxiety, and addiction issues. Lowered levels also increase your risk for heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's.
Art by Vesuvia
The second and third biological factors are also associated with neurotransmitters: Norepinephrine and Dopamine. Norepinephrine is "what most of us think of as the “fight-or-flight” hormones. It functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter and is produced by the adrenal gland, postganglionic neurons of the sympathetic nervous system, and part of the brain called the locus coerules. From the locus coerules, noradrenergic neurons branch out and form a system that enables norepinephrine to be delivered to different parts of the brain. In a similar fashion, the postganglionic neurons enable norepinephrine to be delivered directly to target organs and cells in the body. The adrenal glands dump norepinephrine directly into the blood. These mechanisms usually come into play when we are under stress." (from breakingmuscle.com) - I tried to understand it so I could paraphrase for you, but each subsequent definition I read got more and more technical, so I opted to copy and paste instead of giving you incorrect information. Lowered levels of Norepinephrine are associated with:
Most of us have heard of Dopamine, its a neurotransmitter released by the brain and has a hand in movement, memory, behavior and cognition, sleep, mood, and learning. Conditions associated with low levels include: chronic fatigue, RLS (restless leg syndrome), excessive sleep, lessened libido, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and Parkinson’s disease. There's a lot of great info to be found at medlicker.com.
So basically, symptoms of neurotransmitter imbalances or neurotransmitter deficiency include:
Do you still want to tell me that my depression is just a phase, or that I should get over it, or just wait for it to pass? I have been battling it for as long as I can remember, since my early teens. And make no mistake, it is a battle. It's a battle to get up in the morning, to get washed up and leave the house. To go to work, take care of your children, put on a happy face and deal with the world. All while you're screaming and crying and dying inside. Battling the side effects of the medications, trying to figure out if they're actually worse than the disease. It's a battle not to let it take you. It's a battle to try to remember who you were before you were sad all the time. To not burst into tears for no reason at all, because if you start it won't stop. Battling that tightness in your chest when you have to go anywhere - even just outside your bedroom door.
Art by VGgirl607
I don't talk about it. When I do, I get the eye roll from people who know me. They don't understand that those of us coping with this are phenomenal actors. You don't know there's anything wrong with us unless we tell you - or try to kill ourselves. To you we're just lazy, tired, anti-social. According to my family and friends I'm in perfect mental health, because that's what I let them see.
And this is why people like Prince Ea and those who share his video with notes like "someone has to say it" are actually doing more harm than good. Maybe you thought you were being helpful, trying to tell someone they can lift themselves out of their fog. Your intentions are good, but dangerous. I wouldn't tell a person with cancer to just hang on until it passes, so don't tell me the same. And let's be very clear - depression does kill.
Art by emprinsesa
Hi! I'm Sonja and I'm glad you're here! I'm happy to share some recipes and gardening tips with you while I let you know about great (or not so great) products, services, and media I encounter.
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