Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Grey Veil Descends

I'm still working on the alcohol posts that I promised. They are coming, really, it's just that the grey veil of depression has been slowly descending on me once again. Last week in particular, I expended more energy than I had just to accomplish the bare minimum.

So as therapy and to continue to shine light on the darkness, today's topic is:


Serotonin (one of the happy 
neurotransmitters) t-shirt. 
I lost it...

One of the most pervasive mental illnesses is major depression. Almost 7% of all Americans above 18 have at least one episode each year. Like most things, though, there are gradations. At one extreme, are those theoretical individuals who are self-actualized and physically well - who are continually optimistic and roll with life's punches as they come. (I have yet to meet any of them, by the way.) At the other extreme, of course, are those who are suicidal. Most people who experience major depression fall somewhere in between. {I know there is data on this...I'll dig some up in the future. No energy for it now...}

As I’ve mentioned before, depression, the illness, is much more than being sad or "having the blues" induced by a negative life event. It's systemic, altering emotions, cognition, body function, energy, and soul.

DEPRESSION AND                                                

If you have experienced or are experiencing major depression, you can probably relate. Though I'm not experiencing all of these symptoms now, when I am or have been in a major depressive period, it feels like this:
  1. Physically:
    • I’m tired more than usual, and take frequent naps.
    • Even when awake, it feels like I’m wearing a lead suit. Just trying to get out of bed or off the couch is overwhelming.
    • ...just noticed he Coke too.
    • Sometimes I eat a lot of junk food, and other times I eat practically nothing. For example, last week, I bought a small birthday cake - because why do you have to wait for birthdays to buy one - and I ate 3/4 of it in one night! (The other 1/4, the next day.)
    • Doing any task takes forever. 
  2. Mentally:
    • Negative thoughts cycle around my head continuously like trapped flies in a jar.
    • I scan the past and present for evidence that I am inherently flawed.
    • I am easily distracted and have trouble staying focused - more than usual.
    • But I hyperfocus on the negative.
  3. Emotionally:
    • I'm volatile.
    • easily get irate, though only in the presence of close family, for fear of confrontation with or rejection by friends, colleagues, and others.
    • I don’t necessarily cry a lot, although I sometimes do.
    • I personalize everything and become very, very sensitive to criticism.
    • I tend to hyperfocus on people, negative news and issues in society, pop culture, politics, etc. that make me angry or upset. This in turn feeds my vision of a futile future for me, humanity, and the world.
    • I hate myself.
    • I wish I could disappear.
  4. Socially:
    • I worry, annoy, aggravate, and frustrate loved ones and friends, making it difficult for them to be around me, listen to my irrational thoughts, or even find me attractive. Subsequently, I feel even more unlovable.
    • My personality flatlines, but I hide behind a smiling mask when interacting with others – even at times my family.
    • Maintaining the above fa├žade takes an enormous amount of energy and subsequently I drop out of life.
  5. Work/School:
    • Given #s 1-4, therefore, I frequently absent from classes and/or work days. Once again, I feel even worse as negative thoughts get further ingrained.
    • When I am able to work or go to school in spite of depression:
      • I am more forgetful.
      • I feel less competent, make careless mistakes, and of course, feel even worse, which makes me feel even more incompetent having once again proven that I truly am incompetent. {...and I am more likely to write run-on sentences too.}
      • I miss deadlines (e.g., this blog)
      • I'm less confident and I project it; I shrink, rather than assert.
  6. Self-Care: 
    • I don’t care about my appearance and want to blend into the background and go under the radar. 
    • I shower infrequently.
    • My hair is plain and unstyled, and I wear no make-up. Not that I go overboard on these when I’m feeling well, but I definitely hide myself, lest I be judged. (I can’t be judged if I’m invisible.) This lack of attention to physical appearance is more about hiding and shame, than it is about preferring less or no make-up and wanting to express a more natural appearance. (The latter would be self-confidence. One can be very depressed and hide behind make-up and hair.)
    • Finally, my clothing is subdued and "good enough" to get by. I dress to blend into the background.
Oh, and I hide, hide, HIDE this from loved ones, friends, and even therapists. It's counter-intuitive, but I'm keenly aware what a burden my depressive symptoms, so I try to manage it myself. And well, I'm sure you know how successful that approach is. 

So, that's it in a nutshell. I will tell you one thing though. In spite of my mood downturn, I have written many, many draft posts on several different mental health topics - including alcohol. Stay tuned.

(in sloppy, non-academic format...)

*  “Major Depression Among Adults”,  National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Mental Health.