The reality was a mess. I wasn't eating. I wasn't sleeping, I was rarely even leaving my room. When I did, people would invariable ask where I had been and if I was okay. I smiled and replied that I had a nasty cold or something along those lines. I hid it as best as I could. When my depression boiled to a point where I could not longer hide it, my friends were shocked. My family was in denial and some close friends were angry that I had never confided in them. What they didn't understand was that I was in such deep denial that there wasn't anything to confide.
The lack of eating and regular sleep habits led to headaches, weakness and dizziness. I thought I was sick. My anxiety could get so bad as to cause physical symptoms such as hives and diarrhea. More evidence in my mind, that my illness was physical and not mental. I could still enjoy some things. I still had good days. This meant it wasn't depression, right? Depressed people are never happy, they aren't functional.
Not true. A few hours of feeling normal a week, is not normal. A loved one told me that I was at a turning point. I could live the rest of my life like this, or I could do something to get better. That sunk in and I started to take steps towards recovery. But at that point, I had suffered for about eight months, sinking deeper and deeper into depression.
The symptom list linked above is based off the clinical description of depression. There are a few more symptoms that are undeniable and specific. You may not have all of these. Each individual experiences depression in their own way. I offer to you some of my symptoms.
1. Slept all day, Could not sleep at night.
2. No appetite. I lost close to 15 pounds.
3. Colors looked dull and lifeless. Everything seemed to have a gray tinge to it.
4. There was an invisible wall separating me from those I loved. I could not reach through that wall to connect with others.
5. I hated to be touched.
6. I felt like a liar. I had a hard time going out in public because I was sure strangers could see there was something wrong with me. I avoided eye contact.
7. I was irritable. I was angry and frustrated at being this way and being unable to change it.
8. My mind played tricks on me. I would swear I had never sent that email or made that phone call. Then they would show the email to me or play back the voicemail. I honestly could not figure out what happened. Who would want to hack my email to send that note? I was 100% positive that I never had.
9. My physical symptoms of hives and diarrhea would disappear soon after the stressful event. I remember watching hives break out on my hands during a test, only to watch them disappear on the walk back to my dorm room,
10. I'd have these almost out-of-body experiences. Nothing around me seemed real. Almost as if life was a movie and I was watching it from the outside. Found out later there is a name for this - derealization.
11. I'd have random thoughts of walking out into traffic or stepping off a tall building. They weren't thoughts I obsessed on, just when the opportunity arose. I thought everyone had these kinds of thoughts.
Depression is not sadness. But a sad incident can trigger depression. My worst episode was triggered by the death of my Grandfather. It's as if you get stuck in that mourning phase and cannot get out. If you've been feeling down for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor about it. I know the doctor's advise waiting longer, but I truly believe the sooner you seek treatment the easier it is to treat.
My doctor once said she gets patients who come in saying they lost their job, the dog died and they are in debt and therefore need meds for depression. They don't. They need therapy. She said it's the patients who come in and say I have a pretty good job, a family that loves me, no major problems, but I'm sad anyway that need the meds.
There is a song called For Real by folk singer Dave Wilcox that describes it best for me. "There's a hole in the middle of a pretty good life . . . not your father, not your mother, not you lover can make it ever go away. There is too much darkness in an endless night to be ashamed of the way we feel, , , , , when the longing takes me it takes me by surprise. I remember that longing from when I could not give it a name. It's lucky that I discovered in the nick a time that the woman and child waiting at home were not to blame. This hole in the middle of a pretty good life, I only face it because it's here to stay."
Read Part 1 of this series here.