Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dear Depression

Dear Depression,

You are the road I never chose to travel. A choice I did not make. An illness deep and dark like the ocean and I am so very lost in it.

You have stolen from me my time, happiness, clarity, emotions, zest for life, love of other people, desire, and so much more.

I never thought it would come to this but I recently spent time in the hospital fighting you and your terrible disease. This was a first for me to be hospitalized because of you. I have now been privy to the damage you can to do my peers and their lives. I met a lot of very interesting, intelligent people. People who did not meet the stereotype of what I guess I saw as someone with a mental illness. They were people like me who were living life until depression dragged them down and also stole everything from them. I met financial planners, managers, construction workers, music therapists, teachers and more. People who are in no way weak, or without resources.

I was a lifeguard in high school. When I took the training course to be certified, one of the things we practiced doing was jumping off the high dive fully clothed and then attempting to save a drowning person. We were instructed to first take off our shoes and then as much clothing as possible so as to not be weighed down by them. We then met up with a very scared, combative swimmer who was simulating a drowning person. They scratched at us, they pulled us under and they flailed their arms all around. It was my job to ensure that the person made it to safety.

Depression, you are the person in that story who was failing and kicking and biting doing everything in your power to bring me down in an effort to make it to the top yourself. I'm the exhausted rescuer. Statistics show that sometimes the rescuer can become the victim.

I refuse to let you win, exhausted as I am.

I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, recurrent and severe. When I saw that my doctor had written those words on my chart, I realized just how serious my illness is.

Depression, you are scary and unfair and relentless. But you do not define who I am! This is what defines me:

I love to laugh, love to act a little silly now and then. I love dancing and hope to take ance lessons with Kevin one day so I can dance beautifully when we go to Italy! I believe God has given me the gift of compassion. I enjoy traveling, especially to the beach. I love to be carried away into another time and place through a good book. I love people, they are an essential part of my life. I love to express myself through writing. I love decorating, iced tea, good food, jewelry, shoes, chocolate and parties. I love to help other people. I love Music. My friends and my family make me happy, although thanks to you depression, I am learning that perhaps I don't truly understand what it really feels like to be happy.

That's strange isn't it? Here I am a woman who has known the love of Jesus my entire life and yet I have major depression. Many Christians would say that if I were stronger in my faith, or if I prayed more or read my Bible more I wouldn't be depressed. That is the saddest thing you can tell me. Just like Cancer is not caused by God, neither is depression. It's a medical condition. You are not welcome in my life and my body. GINA

What is Depression?

"Depression is a "whole-body" illness, involving your body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.

The symptoms of depression may vary from person to person, and also depend on the severity of the depression. Depression causes changes in thinking, feeling, behavior, and physical well-being.

Changes in Thinking - You may experience problems with concentration and decision making. Some people report difficulty with short term memory, forgetting things all the time. Negative thoughts and thinking are characteristic of depression. Pessimism, poor self-esteem, excessive guilt, and self-criticism are all common. Some people have self-destructive thoughts during a more serious depression.
Changes in Feelings - You may feel sad for no reason at all. Some people report that they no longer enjoy activities that they once found pleasurable. You might lack motivation, and become more apathetic. You might feel "slowed down" and tired all the time. Sometimes irritability is a problem, and you may have more difficulty controlling your temper. In the extreme, depression is characterized by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Changes in Behavior - Changes in behavior during depression are reflective of the negative emotions being experienced. You might act more apathetic, because that's how you feel. Some people do not feel comfortable with other people, so social withdrawal is common. You may experience a dramatic change in appetite, either eating more or less. Because of the chronic sadness, excessive crying is common. Some people complain about everything, and act out their anger with temper outbursts. Sexual desire may disappear, resulting in lack of sexual activity. In the extreme, people may neglect their personal appearance, even neglecting basic hygiene. Needless to say, someone who is this depressed does not do very much, so work productivity and household responsibilities suffer. Some people even have trouble getting out of bed.
Changes in Physical Well-being - We already talked about the negative emotional feelings experienced during depression, but these are coupled with negative physical emotions as well. Chronic fatigue, despite spending more time sleeping, is common. Some people can't sleep, or don't sleep soundly. These individuals lay awake for hours, or awaken many times during the night, and stare at the ceiling. Others sleep many hours, even most of the day, although they still feel tired. Many people lose their appetite, feel slowed down by depression, and complain of many aches and pains. Others are restless, and can't sit still.
Now imagine these symptoms lasting for weeks or even months. Imagine feeling this way almost all of the time. Depression is present if you experience many of these symptoms for at least several weeks. Of course, it's not a good idea to diagnose yourself. If you think that you might be depressed, see a psychologist as soon as possible. A psychologist can assess whether you are depressed, or just under a lot of stress and feeling sad. Remember, depression is treatable. Instead of worrying about whether you are depressed, do something about it. Even if you don't feel like it right now." Donald J. Franklin, PhD.
This information was obtained from