Sunday, September 20, 2009

Naming depression

I had a depressive episode tonight. Before having taken the Lexapro, I didn't call myself depressed. I might say, "I'm feeling depressed right now." but I didn't identify with the condition. When I was on Lexapro, all of my normal problems got magnified, and I'm much more aware of them now.

I used to think that I used to be an upbeat person, and then I became dreary and angsty about four years ago. Now, I don't think that's true; I think I'm a genuinely happy, optimistic, eager person, but that that was obscured by my problems with anxiety and depression since I experienced onset of these disorders four years ago.

I don't know how to compare my problems with other peoples'. I can't measure their feelings against mine. I know that I'm functional without intervention; my problems haven't led to any addictions (except caffeine, but that's okay in our culture), acting out on my problems hasn't led me to say anything that I regret, I haven't harmed the people close to me. I have a job, and I think I'm doing pretty well at it, I have interesting hobbies and a rich internal life.

I used to say, "I'm functional, so I don't need help for my problems." Maybe functional is one way to measure psychological health, but it's not the best one. If you've got back pain but you can still do your job, you're not healthy, you're in pain. I've been functional and depressed and anxious for four years.

I used to think that treatment was for people who are really depressed, like people who sleep all the time and are mopey and can't have good relationships with people and who are driven to substance abuse. I've never had problems anywhere near that severe, so I just told myself that I needed to have more willpower and discipline, or that I needed to fake my emotions, or that I needed a better diet and to exercise more, if I just did enough things on a list, I'd be okay on my own.

Now, it doesn't matter to me what category my problems fit in, if I have major depressive disorder (I don't think I do) or disthymic disorder or something else, I don't have the feelings I want to have, and I can get help for this. I might as well.

Since I decided to name my depression while I was on Lexapro, my experience of it has changed completely. I didn't even realize that I was depressed because the way that manifested for me was negative thoughts. I blamed myself a lot for my imperfections and frailties, I blamed myself for not being religious enough or sufficiently socially conscious. I thought I felt bad because I wasn't good enough. Now I say, "I feel bad." and let that be what it is. At least, that's what I try to do and I think I'm getting better at it.

Before, when I would feel depressed, I would feel it, physically, in my head. Not just psychologically, I would feel tension in the muscles in my face and neck and chest. Now, when I'm depressed, I feel pain throughout my body, this is my new experience of depression, but I don't feel the tension in my head and I don't harm myself with hurtful thoughts as much. I feel like I can have a peace inside of the depression.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Alex,

    I'm sure this response won't be thought out because that's not how I'm feeling at the moment... but reading this I felt a connection to it because, on some level, I've felt this as well. I'm currently too stubborn to do anything about it since I'm still functioning as you said, but maybe someday I'll cave in and do the meds thing. I'm glad you're starting to be able to find peace :)