The Physical Illness of Depression

These last two days, I have been on the struggle bus.  I usually to describe being like this as “being off”, “not feeling well”, or just “not feeling quite normal”.  Really, I’m depressed.  But I hate that word.

When I hear the word “depressed” I think of somebody who is unambitious, unmotivated, pessimistic, and most of all, somebody who is acted upon, instead of somebody who acts.  I know this isn’t fair- some of the greatest, kindest, most accomplished people I know have dealt or are dealing with depression- but the idea of associating that word with myself makes me feel so very small.

I keep asking myself, “What is wrong with you?!” I keep trying to reason myself into feeling better.  I keep calling people, hoping they will cheer me up- they try. But nothing really “snaps me out of it”.  I will snap out of it, but your guess is as good as mine regarding when or why.

This depression thing, is not just in my head, it’s in my whole body.  It’s not only a mental and emotional, but a physical condition.  Let me sum up my experiences over the last two days for you:

  •  I cried hysterically over something that was inconvenient. Like, barely able to speak because i was crying so intensely.  I knew it wasn’t worthy of such a reaction, but I just felt so out of control, and like my physical response was not aligning with my cognitive understanding of the situation.
  • I couldn’t focus in my institute class.  Like, I got up and left because I just couldn’t pay attention.
  • I am going through an episode of “I am the ugliest person alive and therefor nobody could ever love me.”
  • I just feel so mentally tired.
  • I don’t really feel like talking.
  • When I do talk, I often lose my train of thought, stammer, and take longer than normal trying to find the words to use to say what I mean.
  • I had to decide if I wanted to fill out a Health Insurance application today or in a few weeks after I begin my new job.  I ended up just taking a nap because just deciding when to do it was so overwhelming.
  • The missionaries came over for dinner and I hid in my room because I did not feel capable of acting happy enough to talk to them.
  • Walking 200 feet to my car feels exhausting.
  • Also, I haven’t taken a shower since Tuesday morning (It is now Thursday night).

The symptoms of me “not feeling normal” are a combination of the mental, the emotional, and the physical.

I know that if you were able to perfectly see my body, at the molecular level, something would look different today than it looked a week ago.  Being depressed is as much my choice as having a headache is my choice.

I wish that all the well-meaning friends I have were actually able to fix my mood- I wish it was just a matter of mood.  Understanding that depression is more than just a bad attitude is a little bit scary, because then you know you can’t just make up your mind to not be depressed anymore.

However, it is also a little bit liberating to know that depression is something that happens to you, and is not something you just are.

I really hate the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and I want to be loud and proud about the fact that people who suffer from depression are perfectly normal…as long as they are OTHER people.  I don’t feel so confident in sticking up for myself.

If you have or are experiencing depression, know that you are i great company, and that there is no shame in seeking help.  If you had an infection, you would have no reason to be ashamed of taking an antibiotic.  Likewise, there is no shame in seeking professional help for mental illness, including taking medication.

If you don’t know what depression is like, and want to know how to help someone you know who may be struggling with it, try reading this.

One last thing- I’ve found that, often, the quickest way for me to feel better is to take care of myself in some physical way- either by going for a walk, taking a nap, drinking water, or eating an actual meal.  Additionally, I’ve found that my negative moods tend to come at a certain point in my menstrual cycle.  These things suggest to me that the depression really is a mental manifestation of a physical illness.  When praying, talking, convincing, and meditating fail, just take a nap.

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One thought on “The Physical Illness of Depression

  1. Brittney Maas says:

    Juliet~ I want to talk, even if it is merely through email. I have been dealing with depression my entire life. Lately it has been worse. Many of the physical items you listed literally could be taken from my own life. I understand. I have sought help but I think a kind and understanding ear of a friend would be significant. Please email me: BrittneyGrace@gmail.com

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