Let me get this out there right away: there is no poster child for depression. We do not know what it looks like on the outside. You cannot look at a person and figure out they are battling depression. This makes our discussion tricky, but also dicey. We, as in the scientific community, do not know a whole lot about depression. We know it is a mental illness. We know that it can be genetic. We know that some medications help alleviate it.
But, trust me, misdiagnosis happens frequently. Some doctors are doubtful, think you are putting up an act, or they have trouble figuring out what kind of depression you have. See, there are two types of depression: major depression and manic depression (also known as bipolar depression). Essentially, major depression involves feeling sad all the time. It is not just sadness. It is also a crippling view of life. There is no hope. There is no energy. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. WebMD shares, “With major depression, it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. Some people have clinical depression only once in their life, while others have it several times in a lifetime.”
For me, major clinical depression runs in the family, so it is hereditary, but for others it just happens. The chemicals in their brain just become unbalanced. WebMD adds, “Most people feel sad or low at some point in their lives. But clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships — symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks. In addition, according to the DSM-IV — a manual used to diagnose mental health conditions .” It is the two weeks that doctors really look for. I had depression since I was a child; I had a suicidal tendencies for a long time, but early last year, I had crying spells. I just would start crying. When I finally sought help, the doctor’s first few questions were about when and why I was crying. The thing with depression is that you do not really know why you are crying, why you are tired, why you have gained or lost so much weight. All you know is that life is too hard for you right now.
But “my” type of depression is not the only kind of depression out there. There is also bipolar depression, which is characterized by two phases: a depressive state and a manic phase. WebMD explains, “Bipolar disorder is a complex genetic disorder. The mood swings associated with it alternate from major, or clinical, depression to mania or extreme elation. The mood swings can range from very mild to extreme, and they can happen gradually or suddenly within a timeframe of minutes to hours. When mood swings happen frequently, the process is called rapid cycling.” The mania is hard to explain, but since I have a friend with bipolar depression, I can give examples about it. Essentially, when the mania hits you, you feel invincible. You feel confident, almost cocky. You feel like you can take on any workload, even scary workloads.
Just as major depression, we do not know much about how bipolar disorder comes about. We do not know what causes it, how it is passed down in families. All WebMD can muster is a weak “Like with other mood disorders, what causes bipolar disorder is not known. What is known is that bipolar disorder has a genetic component and can run in families.”
“Marked by relapses and remissions, bipolar disorder has a high rate of recurrence if untreated. Patients with severe mania usually require hospitalization to keep them from risky behaviors. Those who are severely depressed also might need hospitalization to keep them from acting on suicidal thoughts.”
And that is really sad. I think what is unfortunate about depression is that it is so misunderstood because we do not talk about it. I personally get shy and shamed for having depression, but, as my doctor says, it is a chemical unbalance. It is an illness. But, here is the thing: it is not a flu, fleeting and temporary. It can last a whole life time, or a couple of months. I have met people who had depression for a while and then just, one day, stopped.
The concept is amazing, of course. I do not know if I will ever not be depressed. But, I do know that I will always be ticked off if someone says that they feel depressed, because it is not a feeling. It is an illness. It is a struggle. It is a haunting scary experience and it cannot be reduced to taking a mental health day or a day off. Many people suffering depression use different types of treatments such as neurostar.
But this is not it for depression. There is another type of depression. WebMD explains, “Postpartum depression (PPD) is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in a woman after giving birth. According to the DSM IV, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, PPD is a form of major depression that has its onset within four weeks after delivery. The diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset, but also on the severity of the depression.”
I do not know much about postpartum depression, but I do know that it is tough and that it is stressful. But, as WebMD shares “Postpartum depression is linked to chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby. The term describes a range of physical and emotional changes that many new mothers experience. The good news is postpartum depression can be treated with medication and counseling.”
There is a lot more to depression. And, I do not think a thousand words or a million words are enough for me to tell you what it is like. My advice is to be compassionate and understanding. If you are depressed, seek help and be patient.
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