Hi, I'm Fork. I'm 18 years old, in the limbo between high school and college, and a now-five-year wikia member (that is to say, my first edit was five years ago). I'm a cancer survivor. I was a junior doctor. I'm sort of Australian, but I was raised American. I'm going to be a summer camp counselor again this summer. I'm a YMCA Office Manager. My friends describe me as funny, outgoing, nice, "swaggy", a good driver, and an overall happy person.
Oh, and I attempted suicide in October 2012, just over a year and a half ago.
I suffered from clincially-diagnosed major depression from May 2012 to June 2013. I still suffer from generalized anxiety and social anxiety, otherwise known as social phobia. I go through many of my days as a nervous wreck, but I conceal those things in laughter, in kind gestures, in boring phone calls, in long car drives. And I make it through every day just fine.
Logically, I shouldn't be afraid of many of the fallacies [read: a fallacy (noun) is an error in thinking] that occur in my head, but psychologically, I simply cannot avoid them. I've gotten very good in forcing myself into social situations and other things that I'm really not comfortable with. I used to not be able to get behind the wheel of a car without my heartbeat speeding up to the point of a near heart attack; now I can comfortably drive two and a half hours long-distance without any issue other than a cranky stomach and a flattened buttcheek or two.
Throughout my experiences I've noticed more and more that depression is an extremely misunderstood condition. So I thought, since I'm the oldest in a community of mainly middle schoolers and high school underclassmen, that I could clear things up for everyone.
I didn't create this blog for the purposes of bragging. Honestly, depression isn't something to brag about. I don't take my experiences for granted and neither should anyone suffering.
First off, the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders... the fifth edition) defines depression as five of the nine following symptoms occurring every day for at least two weeks:
- Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
- Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day
- Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite
- Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness
- Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan
Now, obviously, some of these symptoms occur in each of us every day, and be reassured that is a normal occurrence. It's the continuous symptoms that can indicate major depression.
You'll see those commercials on the television for depression medication. There's the one with the wind-up doll, and how she goes through life droopy and sad and slowly, but when she gets the medication, she gets wound up again and goes through life much happier, and stands straight up. The "droopy" part is almost a perfect metaphor for a depressed person, because it is difficult for the sufferer to get up and go about their business normally.
Honestly, if I could try to describe what it's like... I couldn't. I'm going to use the words of Dr. Andrew Solomon instead:
"The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment. Everything there was to do seemed like too much work. I would come home, and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends, I would think, 'What a lot of people that is to call back.' Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think that I'd have to get the food out, and put it on a plate, and cut it up, and chew it, and swallow it, and it felt to me like the stations of the cross. And one of the things that often gets lost in discussions of depression is that you know it's ridiculous, you know it's ridiculous while you're experiencing it, you know that most people manage to listen to their messages, and eat lunch, and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door, and that it's not a big deal. And yet, you are nonetheless in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it." (Taken from his October 2013 TED talk on depression, 30 minutes long)
And people suffer for months, years, decades. Teenagers, adults. Mothers, businessmen, college students. You name it, they can suffer from it. And sometimes the depression wins, and it's disabling. It's catatonic. And other times the person can get up and do what they need to do without too much trouble and generally succeed in their lives, while still suffering from depression.
Here's a helpful table:
|Functional Domain||Moderately Impaired||Severely Impaired|
|Family Relationships||Quiet, negative and oppositional||Withdrawn, won’t talk, brusque, angry, aggressive|
|School & Academics / Work||Grades/work performance deteriorating, missing/cutting class or work, decreased effort, moderate academic or work stress||Failing performance, missing school or work, doesn’t care about work, oppositional, argumentative, high academic or work stress|
|Peer Relationships||Decreased socializing or extracurricular activities, more time on computer||Isolated, discontinued extracurricular activities, excessive computer time|
|Stress Level, Anxiety||Minimizes or denies issues, projects onto others or blames others||Withholds feelings, won’t talk|
|Suicidal Ideation||Vague/occasional||Frequently considered, has a plan, or prior attempt|
|Other Self Harm||Occasional thoughts but no attempts||Cutting, other self injury|
Now what happens if somebody does have depression? Obviously every experience is different, which is why the wide definitions are included to fit nearly every situation (psychologists are getting good).
If a person does have depression, it can be treated/helped in a number of different ways:
- Psychotherapy: sit in with a therapist (psychologist or psychiatrist) and talk through your problems. A common way to treat depression in therapy is to use Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which attempts to change the way you think to combat the psychological side of depression.
- Medicine: or antidepressants. The most commonly prescribed kind of antidepressant is a kind called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and I'll get into how those work in a footnote.
- Electroconvulsive therapy: relatively new. Electricity goes through your brain to produce a seizure, while you're under anesthesia, of course. I'm not even sure how this works, but apparently it does. Most given to people who have catatonic depression or are severely suicidal.
The treatment proved to be scientifically most effective is a combination of psychotherapy and medicine.
Also, the quicker the onset of your depression (i.e. appearing slowly vs. suddenly), the quicker it will disappear. Many episodes of depression end on their own. It's quite strange.
Please don't hesitate to ask for help. Please don't be "that person" that says that depressed people are just asking for attention. Believe me, the type of attention I got as a depressed person wasn't the type of attention you think I might be looking for (which, since I was depressed, I wanted none of).
If you're suicidal, or know somebody who is suicidal, call the help lines. Their numbers are listed all over the internet.
If somebody you know threatens suicide, tell an adult that they trust. The adult can help.
Be sure to stay safe if you're helping somebody through depression-- a depressed person's thought process can be caught like a disease, although thankfully the biological part of it can't be transferred.
And stay educated. <3
- ↑ According to this, then, many of us have severely impaired peer relationships, given how much time how much all of us spend on the internet.
- ↑ Your neurons, or communication cells, produce chemicals called neurotransmitters. Serotonin is the one associated with mood, and more serotonin means a person is happier. When your neurons reabsorb, or reuptake the extra serotonin, that means less happy chemicals in your brain, which can increase the chances of depression. Reuptake inhibitors help limit the amount of serotonin reuptake so that serotonin can go toward making your brain a happier place to be.