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The Silent Desperation of Depression

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I’m sure that most of us, at some point in our lives, have felt down in the dumps about something or other. Sad, blue, and depressed are just a few of the words we have for feeling out of sorts about the world. You might have broken up with someone, lost a job, or any number of things could have happened to throw you off balance.

Normally we humans are a resilient bunch and bounce back pretty easily. Some things, like a broken heart, may take longer to recover from than others, but sooner or later you’re back on your feet ready to take on the world again.

But there are some people who don’t find it as easy to snap back from what we would consider the normal setbacks of life. While others may find it relatively simple to recover from these episodes, these few face a horrible struggle to resurface from under the weight of what they perceive as their failure.

Even worse is that some don’t even need a reason to fall into that state we would normally associate with the fallout of misfortune. Imagine walking along one day and everything is just hunky dory; the sun’s shining, birds are singing and all’s right with the world. The next day you wake up and everything’s the same except for you.

All those things that brought you joy the day before are meaningless. You can’t see ever being content again. No matter how much people say they love you, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make a difference to you if the sun is shining or there is a hurricane outside your door.

In really simplistic terms I have just shown you the difference between being depressed and suffering from depression. In the former it implies that you are feeling down for the moment. The latter is a permanent state of mind from which escape seems impossible.

People who suffer from depression don’t normally lose their will to live; instead life ceases to interest them. They can become so withdrawn that they lack even the motivation to care for themselves and get out of bed. Clinical depression, the name given to this ailment, is rapidly becoming the leading cause of disability in the world. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2020, only heart disease will cause more people to suffer.

Aside from the above-mentioned lack of motivation, other symptoms of clinical depression include high levels of anxiety, low self esteem, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, restlessness or inertia, fear of failure, and feelings of guilt. According to diagnostic criteria, when any three of the above are combined with a depressed mood lasting more than a couple of weeks, a person is considered to be clinically depressed.

Sometimes there are obvious causes of depression. People who have suffered from a long-term physical illness that has affected their abilities are highly susceptible to depression. Anything that has the effect of radically changing the manner in which you lead your life seems to be a potential cause.

Men who have worked all their life can very easily slip into depression upon retirement when they find themselves without a job to keep them busy. Faced with all that time to fill and nothing to do for the first time in their adult lives can be very intimidating. There is nothing so bleak as waking up in the morning and facing the prospect of long hours of nothingness.

Men also tend to identify themselves with their employment far more than women. Our society labels them the breadwinner, the one who is responsible for providing for the family. When that role is taken away from them, they are left with no definition of self, and this increases their chances of suffering from depression.

Sometimes there can be more than one cause, or a combination of causes, that contribute to a person’s depression. People who were abused as children can suffer from depression when they finally start to deal with the variety of issues that arise from the incidences of abuse. Single mothers who have spent years living with the anxiety of raising their children on tight budgets with no support find the accumulation of stress can induce depression.

While all of the above are obvious examples of cause and effect, recently there have been more and more cases of depression appearing for no apparent reason. Like the recent upturn in the number of cases of anxiety and stress-related ailments, depression sometimes appears to be caused by societal forces.

Since both high stress levels and anxiety disorders are symptoms of depression it could be a case of one leading to the other, the stress of trying to get by leading to an anxiety condition which in turn causes the depression. Whatever it is, more and more people who supposedly lead full and active lives are becoming clinically depressed.

Currently there is no cure for depression; the so-called anti-depressants only serve to mask the feelings of grief. They also block all other feelings and emotions. So while you may not be suffering form the sadness generated by depression, neither do you experience any pleasure. Combine this with some rather serious side effects inherent in most of the current meds (diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, and others), it’s hard to know if the treatment is better or worse than the condition.

Aside from the long term clinical depression, there are also shorter-term variations that seem to be dependent on very specific circumstances and situations. Seasonal depression and cyclical depression hit only for short terms, but have the same effects as full blown depression.

Seasonal depression that hits when the light starts vanishing in the fall in temperate climates is actually one that is fairly common and treatable. Although there are expensive light therapies that one can undergo, it can also be treated at home by sitting under a grow light bulb use for indoor gardening for about twenty minutes a day. That seems to replace the vanished sun that caused the depression.

Others have what’s known as rolling or cyclical depression. This seems to affect creative people, like artists and musicians, more often. As artists usually identify themselves so totally with their work, if they enter a dry spell where their muse has deserted them, they become despondent.

This type of depression becomes a vicious circle where the less they are able to create, the more they doubt their abilities. The more they doubt their abilities, the less chance they have of creating, and the more they doubt their abilities. It’s more than likely that this cycle is what gave rise to the myth of the artistic temperament.

It is interesting that this sort of depression usually hits an artist when they have just completed a work. They may bask in the glory of having finished something for a short while, but then they start to worry about what to do next. You’re only an artist as long as you’re producing new work is what so many of them will believe.

Depression is an insidious and little understood mental illness with each individual’s reasons for descending into that state as unique as the person. Drugs can provide some relief for individuals but are not a solution by any means as they only address the symptoms. If, as in the case of a survivor of abuse, there are specific issues that can be addressed and resolved, therapy can play a significant role in helping the person suffering from depression recover.

But in far too many cases there is no specific cause, and while a therapist provides some succour, a patient pretty much has to live on his or her own with symptoms of the disease seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. There is no magic formula or miracle cure that will make a person better, no matter what anyone says.

When the anxiety and stress of day to day life have gotten too much for your system to handle, and you are so overwhelmed that even getting out of bed seems like too much of an effort, it’s hard to have hope for a brighter future. As more and more people succumb, perhaps we will begin to realise that there is something inherently wrong with the way we live our lives. Let us hope, for the sake of those without hope, that we don’t wait too long.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • Guppusmaximus

    Excellent Article..

    It’s funny though that with all the supposed Medical technology we have that we still don’t fully understand the brain. Granted there are medications for this type of chemical imbalance, the side affects from using these drugs usually end up being just as bad as the illness(Liver failure,etc..). I personally had to fight back from a long bout with anxiety disorder(a chemical imbalance as well)but the doctors could only perscribe medication for depression because they still don’t understand that illness. Serzone causes liver failure so I had to perservere without it…. There’s hope for anyone with this illness because you can fight it without medication. The drugs these companies produce nowadays are a lazy way to deal with most things right on down to Acid reflux! There are numerous support groups and hotlines and with the internet it’s not hard to find them.

  • Overall, an informative article that I hope will get read widely, but I do have a carp. ‘…the so-called anti-depressants only serve to mask the feelings of grief. They also block all other feelings and emotions.” This may be true for people whose depression doesn’t respond well to medication, but when they’re working as they should, meds don’t cover anything, much less grief, which isn’t even necessarily a part of a person’s depression. Medications (when they work) lift the depression and allow normal feelings to come through. I’m not advocating for anti-depressants. They’re overprescribed, and the number of people who aren’t helped by them is hidden behind the cheery official propaganda. I don’t often use “propaganda,” but that’s what it amounts to when people are led to believe that a trip or two to their therapist will result in miracles. My personal experience with meds was that they either didn’t work at all or made things much worse. I’ve lived with chronic depression all my life, and had one extended bout of major depression. I finally chose to find my own ways to fight it rather than go on trying one drug after another. People need to know, from the getgo, that some depressions are highly resistant to treatment.

  • Another wonderful post, Gypsy. This one hit home because my Mom has “clinical depression” since she suffered a stroke back in 2004. This is a real condition and many people are not aware of it or discount it as temporary. Your article really does service to those who need to be understood.

    I don’t know about the medications though. We’ve been through a few of them, and none of them seem to help her very much. She’s the best when I bring my four year old daughter over to see her. You just can’t bottle something like that!

  • Baronius

    One complaint, two comments:

    MEDICATIONS CAN WORK. They can buy you time while getting therapy, or can help pull you out of a chemical depression. Yes, they may affect your body or moods in undesirable ways – they do alter your brain chemistry, after all – but a knowledgeable doctor can work with you to change doses or medications. I hope this article doesn’t steer anyone away from a viable treatment option.

    Now, the nitpicking. I’m surprised this article didn’t mention post-partum depression (unless I missed it). Also, the apparent increase in depression may be the result of better diagnosis. An earlier generation may have hidden it through drinking or “accidental” death.

  • Right on yet again.

    The world is a depressing place for depressives and a fascinating one for those who aren’t. And those populations change drastically.

    I was horribly depressed during a mid-life crisis. Later, at 47 I had a massive heart attack, died once and was revived, came close other times. And I found that I was a survivor. What a waste of time in my 30’s thinking about suicide when I met Death in her sexy robes and said, “Not me, Baby.”

    Twelve years later we have other major problems: my wife had an amputation, my heart and eyes deteriorate and, absolutely the worst: I have a toothache!.

    But the antidotes to depression — clinical and otherwise — are hard work, creative work, useful work because busy people don’t have time to worry so much about themselves. For others there is the support of being supportive; of giving time and efforts to people with even more problems than you have or want to think you have.

    The is also finding your place in the universe and trying to fill it. Instead of worrying about this and that there is working to live up to the talents that you know you have or those you have buried.

    Nike came the closest to the anti-depressive answer, “Just do it.”

    Important post. It is easy to slip into depression in the tense world of 2005/2006 and there are real problems that sometimes seem or really are insurmountable. But the human spirit can still win out over the blues. Medication, as you point out is only useful to survive until you can start doing things that bring happiness from the gloom.

    When all else fails there is Bessie Smith and Ledbelly and the blues from the days of the blues.

  • Shark

    Nice work, Gypsy.

    Just an aside/shameless plug: Shark did Depression in 2004.

    Interesting to note how two writers approach the same *subject.


    * i was tryin’ to be funny…

  • Bennett

    alpha – right on, man. I’m 47 right now, and your words speak to the heart, no pun intended.

    I hope all is well with you and your wife now, and that both of you have many years ahead to affect peoples’ lives, on-line and off.

    Feliz Navidad!