A slump in the emotions recently notified me that my old enemy, depression, was back in town. Never completely free from its tendrils, now there was a severe grip of the inner darkness.
Such a mix of metaphors, to describe a complex mesh of feelings. But how else to articulate the loss of psychological moorings which come with a fresh plunge into the depths?
Each person’s experience is different. Not only that, but the words we use to talk about depression differ, and some are more skilled at discussing sensations than others.
Plus, cultural differences, and previous personal experience, family upbringing, all affect how much we can speak about such sensitive topics, or give voice to them at all.
In addition, the lack of vocabulary, or the absence of encouragement and opportunity, can shape our ability to even recognise the beginnings of a slide.
Naming it can be liberating. To be able to say, and be heard, ‘I am depressed’. Or it can be a curse, a death sentence, condemning us to a lifetime of psychic suffering with no release.
In my own case, I have lately learned a new word, which help me make sense, if not cure, my own particular form of depression.
This is now I used to explain how it is for me.
Imagine a straight line. Some people live at this ‘normal’, whatever is normal for them, in emotional terms.
They might go up and down from time to time; the line is not completely straight. This may lead to what conventional parlance might call ‘depression’, or feeling a bit ‘down’.
But then, sometimes, for these people, they slide, fall, tumble way down. This would be a clinical ‘depression’, it might also be diagnosed as such by a doctor.
The usual means of coping when you’re a bit down (bottling it up, talking to a friend, hobbies, exercising, self-medicating, volunteering) don’t work at this time.
These are good therapies, in their own place. They just don’t cut it when deep depression kicks in often for a long period.
The doctors say that anything over two weeks can count as genuine depression; though when I say ‘genuine,’ I must make sure I don’t invalidate anyone’s experience. Our depressions are all different.
But then, after some medication, some counselling, maybe cognitive behavioural therapy, things begin to look up. And the person begins to return to their ‘normal’.
Their normal also includes ‘highs’; not in the bi-polar sense, but simply enjoying life, in helpful, positive ways.
I don’t want to belittle their experience. Sometimes, such episodes can last months, or even years. And afterwards, they need to learn to incorporate insights from their suffering into their daily lives.
This might mean paying attention to self-care, or reconciling themselves to the ambiguities and imperfections of life. Such realism is an important part of life-learning.
Indeed, post-depression, a person may discover a new depth to experience, which results in exploring fresh dimensions of life which they were previously blind to.