Screams in the dark; The perils of Depression
I can’t tell what really triggered it; all I can remember is when I figuratively began to die slowly and silently; Little by little, that cheerful feeling of happiness and general well-being was vanishing like a deflating balloon. I felt emotionally empty, numb, hopeless, and helpless.- I had no clue how to take back control of myself. It was like I was worthless and possessed nothing valuable anymore, although I had achieved much of what I often wished for in life: I was in a stable relationship, I had just landed a good-paying job a few months after completing my studies in data analysis. I had a very caring family, etc. Despite the many reasons to feel happy, somehow, life was nothing other than gloomy, the rainbow colors that once brightened my life became so opaque. My favorite tv shows seemed more irritating than relaxing. I would not even admit it to my suspecting loving partner( Ironically, I did not want to bother him out of love). It is sad to imagine all his efforts to know what was going on with me were dismissed as bogging and overreacting.
I would cry in the silence of darkness. The perplexing part is I was able to skillfully hide it all and mask the smile that was contagious to those around me; although it was no longer genuine, it felt only like a somber expression on my face no one noticed. In reality, it was as if the sun had gone out in the middle of an eternal eclipse, and I was part of it.
It soon became more challenging to get out of bed and re-experience the daily ordeal and malaise. Hiding and masking it also required tremendous effort and energy, which I barely had as I had begun suffering from Insomnia. Moreover, I was no longer eating properly and hardly cared about my physical appearance. I was a captive unwillingly wanting to scream for help, trapped in the silence inside my own body, with little or no life – a walking dead. All I wanted was to stay tucked in my bed- my newfound refuge where time somehow stood still, consumed in dreams, albeit nightmares, without thinking about tomorrow.
As the days went by, I was convinced that all this would pass, that everything would return to normal as in other times; after all, I often prided myself on being resilient, finding solutions, and having things under control. Despite occasional rosy moments and sporadic semblance of normality, my misery was in no way close to the exit door. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months. The situation intensified like a chronic disease, or worse, an incurable disease already in its terminal phase.
My external world started falling apart piece by piece.
First, I broke up with my fiancee. -Denial and my refusal to let him into my dark world were major reasons, and then one thing led to the other.
And then, I lost my job due to perpetual mistakes and a lack of work effort, drive, and punctuality.
I gained 50 Ibs within a few months: Healthy dieting, yoga, and planks, my favorite pastimes, were relegated to the back door.
Most of my close friends abandoned me -no, no, I abandoned them. My irritability, unreliability, and wanting to be alone all played a role. Yeah, it was a systematic mission to self-destroy.
My Downfall - Reckoning with my depressive self
That charming woman who often considered herself the happiest person in the world had lost control. She was in a dark place in her life despite her many successes and achievement. She was on a self-destruction mission, repelling any form of help that seemed to come her way. She was like a ghost amid everyone.
Yeah, it was indeed that strange ghost I saw one day as I stood in shock and disbelief, staring at my disfigured, disheveled naked body in front of my bathroom mirror. Like a horrifying whisper from within, I could hear myself contemplating the essence of being alive on the outside since I felt already dead inside; I was a mere wreck. I hated to see what I had become as tears ran down my face like a waterfall. That was like a final straw that broke my spirits and made me begin opening up and subsequently seek help.
Insight and lessons learned
Every day I chose to be with myself. The fact that nothing mattered to me anymore and nothing gave me pleasure became an unbearable situation to such a degree that I wished I could sleep and never wake up. Since only sleep allowed me to escape from my reality, my Insomnia only made it much harder, and that is when I was literally contemplating sleeping until eternity.
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Out in the real world, where appearance is what often counts, I learned to use my grim smile as a mask that allowed me to escape questions about my state of mind when in reality, I knew and denied I was suffering from Depression. Perhaps I was naive to consider myself too special and invincible. That was something only for the weak-minded, I thought. I was wrong! Anyone can become a victim of Depression. A fundamental reason why The Marcopera often advocates nurturing the mind as a top priority in life.
After six months of soul searching, medications and counseling
today I am proud to open up, talk about my ordeal, be vulnerable, and still be that happy woman I always considered myself, even willing to seek help when I feel empty. Furthermore, I am glad and feel blessed that I have an even more understanding and supportive family and a special treasure of what I call true friends who unconditionally put on with all my mess.
Occasionally, we will all go through emotional episodes of melancholy or sadness in the course of our lives. These feelings are common and expected. However, it becomes a negative trend when it is marred by persistent sadness and lack of interest- A precursor or emotional numbness, emptiness, and figurative lifelessness.
So what is Depression really?
Let us turn to the highly acclaimed ( DSM–5-TR) :
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision –the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States ->Major Depressive Disorder (Diagnosis)
Depression is a syndrome or mood disorder that causes a series of common symptoms that might affect our feelings, moods, thoughts, attitudes and approach to everyday life (sleeping, eating, working, motivation, and interpersonal relationships).
A Depressed mood, loss of interest, hopelessness, apathy and increased fatigue might be some of the common symptoms of Depression.
Are you susceptible?
The Marcopera is a big proponent of considering and nurturing the mind as a main priority and habit in everyday life.
Suppose you feel you are susceptible to depression and mood swings for any reason. In that case, it is of utmost importance that you take time to critically and objectively ponder the possible underlining cause(s).
When one learns to ignore and distance oneself from the negative evaluations of others and even our distorted self-image and self-perception, the more mental strength one acquires and the better positive control one exercises in general over one’s emotions and behaviors.
Some underlining risk factors of Depression
- Trauma and major Loss in life
- Having suffered from a previous episode of Depression
- History of abuse and mistreatment
- Gender: women are more susceptible to suffering from Depression. Even though one may add men are less likely to report Depression.
- Low self-esteem and distorted self-image
- Chronic ailments and pain
- Unstable coping mechanism
- Anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Family history of Depression and other mental illnesses
- Illicit substance use, addiction, and abuse
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Some Common Forms of Depression
Major depressive disorder: Often associated with prolonged loss of interest and sadness. Medication and psychotherapy might be helpful here to address the clinical Depression
Dysthymia: Characterized by mild and re-occurring depressive moods for at least two years.
Bipolar Depression – Bipolar Disorder: Characterized by periods of depression (lows) alternating with manic periods of elation (highs) that might last from days to weeks. Lithium salts might also be helpful here. As always talk to your physician before taking any medication into your system .
Seasonal affective disorder and seasonal Depression: Common in areas with prolonged or severe winters due to a reduction in daylight during the fall and winter. Sunlight and light therapy might be helpful here, among other therapeutic measures.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Common in young women around their periods. The resulting hormone fluctuations and discomfort often subside after a few days.
Postpartum Depression and postpartum psychosis: Occurring in women after childbirth. Many women may commonly experience the so-called “baby blues.” Sort of mood changes due to hormone level fluctuations. If severe and persistent, this might lead to Postpartum depression or postnatal Depression. Postpartum psychosis is an even more severe and dangerous upgrade potentially harmful to the mother and even the child.
Signs and symptoms of Depression
While mood fluctuations and sporadic low moments are common in life, When too regular and long-lasting, watch out for these signs and symptoms which might be revealing.
12 possible common signs and symptoms of Depression
Also, check out the formal DSM criteria for diagnosis of Depression and always consult a licensed practitioner or talk to your physician if you or anyone you know needs help.
- Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and inner discomfort.
- Lack of interest or pleasure in activities once regularly enjoyed.
- Distorted sexual drive or desire ( often loss of sexual desire but could be excessive in manic Depression)
- Distorted physical appearance, from being disheveled to weight loss or gain as a result of changes in appetite
- Insomnia -sleeping difficulties or bedriddenness with a desire to sleep too much( Hypersomnia)
- Irritability and agitation-moodiness and increased sensitivity to trivial issues.
- Impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- Lack of concentration and focus with a resulting forgetfulness
- Apathy, fatigue, and lack of energy and inner drive
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Increased risk-taking, gambling, addiction, excess drug use, and aggression
- A sense of gloom, numbness, and emptiness with recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or an attempt at suicide
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Causes of Depression
Medically speaking , pinpointing the cause of Depression is not clear-cut. There are many possible causes, and various factors often combine to trigger symptoms. Perplexing is the fact that what might be debilitating to one person could even be a life-changing boost to another.
Some possible factors that may play a role include:
- environmental, psychological, and social factors, including traumas and calamities
- Other related and psychological conditions like bipolar disorder
- genetic features
- Fluctuations and changes in the brain’s neurotransmitter levels
- Geographical location and Seasonal changes
Treating and dealing with Depression
1. Having a Support System: Research shows good relationships in the form of Family and friends play a crucial role in overall happiness. It is essential to be willing to open up and be vulnerable to loved ones. As mentioned above, anyone can be a victim of Depression.
2. Cognitive-behavioral and Psychotherapy: This is one thing in life where one has to be willing to accept to make themselves vulnerable and seek help: There are several qualified practitioners or licensed specialists who could counsel and treat depressed persons.
3a. Antidepression Drug treatment, i.e. Antidepressants: These can be prescribed by a licensed physician and psychiatrist. Be mindful of some of the side effects, especially the possibility of increased suicidal thoughts within the first few weeks and months of treatment.
3b. Some herbal remedies or supplements might also be beneficial, e.g., St. John’s wort, Rhodiola, Omega-3 fatty acids, Minerals like Zinc and Magnesium, Lemon balm, Ginseng, 5-hydroxytryptophan, Chamomile, Vitamin B and D, Lavender, (SAM-e) S-adenosyl methionine and possibly much more. Note that FDA does not strictly regulate these supplements or remedies. While some studies show that these supplements may benefit people with Depression, more research is needed for standardization. Always consult and talk to your physician and licensed therapist before taking any medication or supplements into your system.
4. Behavioral Aspects: e.g. Meditation, mental relaxation, yoga , sports and community service and healthy mind nurturing habits. Furthermore sports, healthy foods and diets could all play a role in alleviating and thwarting depressive moods
10 basic practical-behavioral steps and habits to help combat Depression and feel more alive.
(It is of utmost importance to highlight that these techniques or strategies are complementary and, therefore cannot substitute for a qualified professional)
- Nurture and keep your genuine relationships and support networks (partner, friends, family, and loved ones). These are your crucial sources of solace in moments of trials and despair. They provide that soothing shoulder to lean on and carry you along when you can barely move
- Nurture and be mindful of your sleep and resting hours:
- Have a good rest and sleeping ritual.
- Ensure your sleeping room and the bed are cozy and comfortable, well acclimatized, and ventilated.
- Strive to go to bed at the same time of day regularly.
- Keep away unnecessary lights and electronic gadgets from your sleeping space.
- free your mind of clutter and emotional garbage, anxiety, and tension before sleep eg, via meditation, mental relaxation, mindfulness, or even listening to calm music
3. Stay fit and active: remember those feel-good hormones ( endorphins) are released during physical activity and several other benefits.
4. Detect the source of your Depression and take action to solve the problem or overcome the situation.
5. Think positively: Find some good in any hardship, challenge or calamity. There is much truth in the adage that “tough times do not last but tough people do”
6. Practice gratitude: There is so much good in being grateful
7. Progressively engage in worthwhile and realistic goals. Have a true purpose and meaning and strive to attain it
9. Seek help and counsel when in need. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness rather a sign of strength to admit your human imperfection.
10. Love yourself. If you cannot treat your self with care and respect who should ?
- If you or someone you know is considering suicide, don’t hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255),
- Also visit : suicidepreventionlifeline.org. for more supportive and helpful information
- Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis by dialing: 741741 or texting “STRENGTH”