“Depression is a condition that is almost unimaginable to anyone who has not known it. A sequence of metaphors– vines, trees, cliffs, etc.– is the only way to talk about the experience…. Let us make no bones about it. We do not really know what constitutes depression. We do not really know why certain treatments may be effective for depression. We do not how depression made it through the evolutionary process. We do not know why one person gets a depression from circumstances that do not trouble another. We do not know….”
–Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
(Scribner, 2001, p.29)
I want to investigate the influences on my life that may have predisposed me to depression. I don’t think the roots of my depression are with my mother and my father– they may go back as far as my grandparents and great-grandparents. I think the conditions under which I grew up, combined with other factors– such as my own temperament– predisposed me toward depression. Past influences are anything but water under the bridge. Your family’s past and your own past carry you forward. I don’t think depression just “happens” to people. It is something that builds up, something that ebbs and flows, something that, if left unchecked, can take you over the edge. We have recently seen an example of this with Robin Williams. While he often talked about his battle with depression, who would ever have believed he could commit suicide? We loved him too much– right?
I want to tell my story because I have an intense need to figure out what brought on my depression, what influences in my life contribute to it, why it continues even now, and why it gets so intense. I know my challenges have been unique– as are yours, if you are reading this. But I believe we have common questions and common reactions to some of life’s challenges. We may be predisposed to depression and not realize it until it strikes. I have my memories, my personal interpretation of things that happened to me, things I did, things I witnessed. Still, I have questions, and lapses of memory, and gaps of awareness. But the more I do remember, the more I hope I can put together the pieces of the emotional puzzle that is my life.
I know that I am all right, that there is hope, that there are others going through experiences similar to mine. There are so many excellent writers who offer their take with their research, reflections, resources, and inspiration. I know there’s value in putting your story in words and sharing it with someone who will listen. Depression is not an intellectual reality. It’s an emotional, mental condition that I’m convinced can ultimately only be relieved through person-to-person interaction, with a professional, a close friend, or possibly even a fellow depressive. Sooner or later you learn that what works are not the antidepressants (which numb you) but the sharing and the talking (being able to express what you’re feeling). I still find that hard, but I’ve decided to discuss what I’ve learned in the hopes that it will help me– and possibly others– get a grip on this thing called depression that keeps knocking me down.
My very first experience of “being crazy” made me realize that there was no quick fix– no silver bullet. That was depressing in itself. But I also experienced a relationship with someone, that time a professional therapist. who was able to tell me that I was not alone, that I wasn’t crazy. There was relief in all that; maybe I could talk about it with someone. But what I didn’t get was someone who could take it all away. That has always been my experience. Nothing takes it away. There’s no silver bullet. Any comments?