What is Depression?

Over ten years ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It stayed with me for perhaps a few months and then for many years was not part of my life. In recent months it seems to have come back into my life.

Back in then over ten years ago (around year 2005 and later) I’d been through many years of personal stress, so in some ways it wasn’t a surprise with the diagnosis. BUT honestly at least for me I found the diagnosis required my participation to come into being. You see the thing about any kind of mental / emotional / psychological disorder is that the diagnosis is very much a subjective thing coming from a mental health provider. And that diagnosis comes as a result of willing participation of a client wiling to show up and talk somewhat consistently with a health provider.

I remember many years earlier people sharing going thru a divorce or tragic loss of a loved one, or loss of a job and having “a break down” or a “nervous break down” which others later describe as depression. It made it all sound like a situation of just being “over whelmed” and perhaps needing to reach out by way of some kind of clinical diagnosis. But in the end there is an aspect of depression that seems at times hokey.

Someone says “I’m feeling depressed”. Isn’t that just an emotion. I always felt that feeling depressed was just a longer seated state of feeling sad for a long time. So if you’re feeling an emotion for a long time why is that a clinical disease or illness that should be “fixed” with therapy or medication?

I also heard at times that depression was more a deep seated anger at self. Once again anger is just an emotion. So if you’re feeling anger for a long time against self why is that a clinical disease or illness that must be “fixed”?

Ultimately, there is an aspect about depression, it’s characterization, it’s sharing with others and the participation with medical health care professionals towards a diagnosis that states that depression is a self inflicted state of being. And researchers had been able to find methods of physical treatment either through psychotherapy or psychiatric medication to counter the physical reinforcement of this self inflicted state of being. Psychotherapy helps one express and ease the painful regions of emotions while medication helps counter diminished neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

I’ve now come to see that depression is a defensive mechanism to numb feeling of things that have been too painful to feel. There are powerful and passionate life forces behind depression and in depression the choice has been made that it these emotional forces can only be endured through shutting down. It can be an energetic shutdown to encourage fatigue and sleep to help protect yourself from a tyrannical critical voice that refuses to let you rest and accept the major inconveniences of turn of life events that just refuse to meet your expectations. I’ve heard of some describing depression as a literally extremely physically painful experience. It leads to not caring. It leads to lack of self care. It leads to suicidal ideation.

So I would say that depression is not itself an emotion but is certainly brought on by very strong emotions. Depression is more the state of being and intent to suppress feeling the very strong emotions. I think though that there are many who through most or even all of there living life manage to suppress feeling many emotions who never quite get classified as depressed. These would be people who manage to suppress emotions and find mechanisms in life to function avoiding these emotions. But for those who eventually can find no way to avoid without it impacting on daily functioning life of self care, these people need external intervention to become functional again. It’s the need and the act of an external intervention to help someone who is no longer able to care fo self due to a paralyzing and numbing state of being that leads to diagnosis of depression.

So back then over ten years ago some friends suggested I get some help … and at times wondered if I was just a saint for being a very giving person to others, but at times at the expense of my own self care. Even a few wondered if I was depressed and that perhaps needed the help of some medication. And then I remember reaching a state of deep “I don’t care anymore”.

For me it was a kind of state of exhaustion where even if I was scared for my life about some some imminent physical harm — perhaps a car about to crash into me if I don’t jump out of the way — in my “I don’t care” state I wouldn’t move and know that the car would likely hit and kill me. In the state of what I would call depressed for me I’d just be too physically tired to move and my sensation of terror and fear of pain would be too numbed out to motivate me jump out of harms way. For me my definition of clinical depression is when I feel this deep seated emotional and physical state of “I don’t care”

I write and talk about this because in the last few months I’ve started to feel at times a bit of the “I don’t care”. There’s still a lot of vigilance in me to keep trying and striving. But that inner vigilance is creating lots of stress and exhaustion and ultimately intertwined in the creation of “I don’t care”.

At the very least I guess this particular blog entry describing a self fulfilling problem of depression is itself becoming the cure to counter the depression. And it’s the cure not because I’m going to come up with some ten steps to coming back to normal. It’s the cure because I’m willing to remain vulnerable to stigma and shame and share it and express it.

While I have done many things that seem very “awakened” and “mature” in areas of spirituality I’m just as filled with weakness, doubts, and faults as any one else. This is my knowing that while I’ve accomplished many things intellectually like setting up and maintaining several websites for many years, blogging for over 10 years and getting ready to publish two books that I’ve worked on for over 10 years — I’m still very capable of flubbing up. Things could take a turn and I may never publishing my books. I may become too ill and have to quit all my websites. I could go spiraling into depression and isolation. I could become just another homeless person wandering the streets.

For me depression is the area where I say “I don’t care and I don’t want feel anymore.” It’s the area that says “I wish I were dying sooner” because it’s becoming too painful and exhausting to keep fighting and hiding from the so many things in life that seem more threatening than physical death.

I think with physical death we all believe that it’s an impersonal door that closes us off from what we don’t want to find or be found by others. If we make the choice to stay alive and present in life, engaging and accepting what comes (even if it’s not at all like we would dream and fantasize it will be), we allow our selves to remain vulnerable to the unknown in the living state. That exposure to a rather limitless vulnerable unknown future in the living state seems immensely more terrifying than a final definitive physical death. The perception is that physical death feels scary because …. because well … it feels like death. Remaining alive to an unfolding ever more scary life feels scary … because well … if feels like were going to die.

There is an off-the-scale level of pain, horror, agony and unbearableness that we call death. It’s just that with physical death there’s a sense of an “off” switch. With the sensation of feeling like we’re going to die in the living state there is no “off” switch and it feels like unfolding living death just never stops. So in many ways the death in the state of being alive seems worse that the death associated with physical death.

To you blog reader … I share where I have been and still often feel this area medical scientists are willing to call clinical depression. It’s part of life or at least my life. I am human. I honor myself for sharing and bow in humble gratitude to you the reader having read to this point. Namaste.

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