As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve suffered with chronic depression since adolescence. Most of the time, this is not what people think of when they think about depression. It tends to me mild to moderate and lacks things like suicidal ideation (usually). It even has a name: dysthymia. Dysthymia is no picnic though. Think of it like one of those months where the sun never comes out and it’s gray and wet the entire time. At some point, you forgot the last time you saw and felt the sun on your face. In other words, it has a cumulative effect on the psyche.
Major depressive disorder is more episodic in nature. These are bouts of moderate to severe depression. For those with dysthymia, this becomes what is known as “double depression.” Thinking again of the never ending overcast days, now add a few days or weeks or months of scary black tornadoes. An episode of major depression is hell. For me, I experience body aches as if I had the flu. Some people find it difficult to sleep while depressed, but I have the opposite problem – I sleep constantly. However, no matter how much sleep I get, I’m exhausted. It is not rejuvenating sleep, but at least it’s a way to check out for a while. Depression robs you of your passion for life. Things you once craved or loved to do no longer matter. Sex, exercise, hobbies, music, reading, etc., all become mundane. The fatigue I feel is debilitating. I will have days when I literally cannot will myself out of bed. I will lay there for hours, staring at the wall, unable to move. When I finally do get up to use the bathroom, it feels like I’ve run a marathon and I will end up sleeping for several hours afterwards.
Self-worth goes right out the window and is replaced instead with self-loathing of the highest order. My inner monologue viciously attacks every perceived deficiency of mind, body, and character. To compound this, the feelings of sheer guilt settle in as I reflect on the fact that being sick, tired, worthless, and mopey all the time is not much fun for others to be around.
When the depression is at its zenith, I have experienced what is known as depersonalization/derealization. This is a scary phenomenon and also difficult to describe. I will be sitting somewhere have a conversation with someone, and then all of a sudden, it’s like I’m a spectator of myself watching from inside my own body. Imagine playing a video game of yourself from a first person perspective. You recognize your own voice and see your own body, but you feel apart from them. Your surroundings lack a tactility and sound becomes distant and muffled. It’s actually quite scary.
I think the worst part of depression is the intrusive, nonstop thoughts of death and dying. Suicidal ideation is also a prominent subject on my mind. I will find myself considering which way I would want to die. It becomes an objective thing. For example, I would never use a gun because of the mess someone else would have to clean up. I’ve always considered hanging to be my way out. I remember once tying a hangman’s noose on a piece of nylon climbing rope and snugly fitting it around my neck, just to see how it felt. I don’t know what I expected, but it felt good. And the tighter I pulled, the more comforting it seemed. The suicidal thoughts can become so overwhelming that it’s difficult to think of anything else.
That’s what depression does: it completely distorts your perceptions of self and of reality. This is why people kill themselves. It’s not that they want, to die, but rather, existence has become literally intolerable and they see no other choice.