Previously I explored a ‘normal’ experience of depression, as a variation from the straight line. But straight line, the ‘normal’, for me has always been below what is normal for others.
Without being self-pitying, the continual curse of the depressive, I’d say that happiness has eluded me.
I experience the same tiny ups and down as others, but always at a level below what others seem to experience as their ‘normal’. I am constantly ‘sad’.
Furthermore, I never experience the highs. In all enjoyable experiences, there is a concomitant darkness.
However, although I am what is called ‘anhedonic’, unable to feel joy, the hedons, I do still, mystifyingly, nevertheless experience the ‘lows’.
Bumbling along, below normal, never really happy, I will plunge down into serious depression, every few years, and lasting for several years thereafter.
So this is how I learned to explain my ongoing life-experience to those interested enough to listen, before their eyes glazed over with the effort of listening to a morose maudlin individual.
But recently I heard this word, which has helped me to understand what I’ve gone through repeatedly in life.
The word is ‘dysthymia’: low mood. This may make it seem less serious than ‘true’ depression. And indeed the symptoms, on any questionnaires used to diagnose depression, do scoreless highly.
However, the difference is that this is a ‘chronic’, not an ‘acute’ disorder. That is, Dysthymia is longterm, not episodic. It may even be permanent.
The sufferer may always have felt this way, and even identify it with their sense of identity; it’s part of who they are. But their experience does not stop there.
What stops them from being reconciled to being merely a miserable curmudgeon who nevertheless gets through life, is that Dysthemia also tips over the edge, into clinical depression.
Their condition, however, is different from the otherwise ‘normal’ sufferer. The danger is the loss of hope.
For the person who sinks into depression from a normal experience of life, they can remember how life was, and they can therefore envisage the possibility of a return.
For the Dysthymic, there is no return. ‘Normalcy’ is, after all, already depressive. So what is there to return to?
Depression is definitive of reality. It is ontological. There is nothing to contrast it with. There is only a greater or lesser ability to cope existentially with distress and despair.
This hasn’t helped, in the sense of being cured, or thinking my way out of the funk, when the mind-fog descends.
There is still the same dissipation of any ability to constructively apply lessons from CBT, or other life lessons. Everything goes out of the window.
Paradoxically, psychological techniques, like CBT, positive-thinking, etc, only work when the mind is clear and strong enough to take control and think clearly.
But what this simple concept has enabled me to do is to place myself in a continuum. Who knew it? My depression is a ‘thing’. It has a name.
Understanding is a key to surviving.