So you want to know what it is like to have full on, straight-to-the-bottom, clinical depression. You have a family member or a friend who is suffering and you would like to know what they’re going through to better help and comfort them.
First, you start to lose things including your sense of well-being and your regular aches and pains. You have so many new “illnesses” you start to feel like a hypochondriac. “General malaise” is what the doctors call it and it is real. It’s what most of us first approach a doctor with, and that doctor is not a psychiatrist, but your regular general practitioner. Your body is starting to react to the changes in the neurotransmitters in your brain, and that’s why we need to know these symptoms.
You start to lose other things like sleep; I don’t mean you toss and turn a few nights. Night after night after night you stare at the dark ceiling of your bedroom thinking bleak thoughts and feeling hopeless feelings. Your body, in desperation, starts taking catnaps other times; at school, at work and with loved ones. Sometimes it goes the opposite direction and all you can do is sleep. You sleep all the time and injure your natural circadian sleep patterns, until day and night are switched. You live alone while everyone else gets their sleep. You know how to really torture someone, to drive someone to the point of psychosis? Deprive them of sleep.
And you lose your appetite. You may just wake up one day and it’s gone. Or it may leave over a couple of weeks. Your favorite food, your chocolate cake/sirloin steak/lobster/shrimp, all taste like ash and iron in your mouth. Give it a try. Taste iron and ash and that’s what it’s like.
All the essential ingredients that keep a human being alive stop coming in, making you weaker and sicker, more prone and less defended against the neurological mess that’s happening in your brain.
Or your body goes the opposite direction and all you can do is eat. Cookies, peanut butter from the jar, anything you can put in your mouth goes in. There’s a growing feeling of emptiness in your center and you become desperate to fill that emptiness. This is in addition to the mental illnesses that may come later as bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
You lose any strength in your “batteries,” your inner reserves, your physical and emotional power sources that you may have depended and trusted your whole life. That alone can be horrifying, that sense that “you’re losing your mind,” because in this case, you are. And can you think of anything more terrifying than that sense of losing yourself. Put the things you fear all together and they pale in regards to feeling that you are losing your mind and there is no hope.
You lose your sense of direction. You’re fumbling around in this nasty dark room, where everything is set to hit you in the face or kneecaps, and you have no bearings, your life’s “radar system” which usually is pretty good is now totally ineffective. You can’t seem to find a door, not even a window, and it’s getting pretty claustrophobic in there. You can even lose your Higher Power in those pitch-dark places.
You go to extremes, finding different drugs you become addicted to, to try and hold off the pain, to give you respite for even a moment.
And your addictions start to take the place of your life, take up our time, again in desperation when we feel we have NO LIFE. And when you finally reach bottom and feel so alone and afraid and broken and useless and worthless, we can even become addicted to Pain. To Grief. To Loneliness. To Hopelessness. To Death. We can find no maps in this map-less world to help turn our desperate wanderings back into some kind of a journey.
There IS hope, oh, yes, thank God, there is HOPE from doctors, medications, spirituality and loved ones, but that’s for the next part of the story. So, while the old adage from the movie, ”The Sound of Music”, “For every door he closes, somewhere God opens a window,” may be true, let me tell you, it’s still awful damn dark in the hall.