Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D.
Many people are chronically depressed and have struggled with depression through out their life. They remember being depressed even when they were in Kindergarten or the first grade. Since they grew up with the problem, they take it to be a part of their essential nature and not a matter for professional help. They don't tell others about their problem for being viewed as either crazy or weak. Some don't tell even their partners because "they won't understand" or "it's difficult to explain."
I often ask such persons how they would describe their problem to someone else who is not a psychologist. Some of those descriptions are presented here. They are disturbing and painful to read but helpful in our understanding and appreciation of the problem of life-long depression.
"You're always thinking something bad is around the corner. There is no hope for future and that makes you tense and restless. You feel everything is closing in on you. You feel real sadness in your heart, a heavy-laden feeling, deepening feeling of sadness. You feel a lot of fear."
"You're terrified because you feel you're never going to get better. There is a feeling of impending doom. Nobody can help you. You're a lost cause. Everything feels so dreary and awful. As time goes by, you constantly feel you're getting worse."
"You feel you've let everybody down. People are disgusted with you. They don't like you. Like you, don't belong anywhere. Want to know how isolated you feel? It's like everybody inside is having a big party and you're outside in the cold, looking through the window. But you can't go in, you're not allowed to get in because you feel you're not good enough."
"You're trapped. You feel something is going to get you but you can't get away. You have this overwhelming feeling of sickness. You wonder what's going to happen next, you have no idea. There is nothing you can point your finger at, but you sense it will be worse than what it already is."
"You worry constantly. You don't feel like doing anything. You don't feel any pleasure in doing anything but you still work real hard just to feel better about yourself. But you don't feel better. So you feel even more discouraged. You wonder what else you can do. You're running out of things you can try."
"You feel sleepy all the time. Feel very tired and depleted of all energy. You don't want to do anything. You constantly blame yourself. You feel like a total failure and have a low self-esteem. You feel like you've wasted your whole life and nothing to look forward to."
"You look ahead only to feel worse. You're constantly trying to find something that your nerves won't bother you and tear you apart. You don't have enough energy to battle with your nerves and battle for family and at work at the same time. You give up on life so you can just battle with your nerves. You can see that your nerves are beating you down. Your nerves control you but you can't control them."
"You feel tired all the time and never rested. You ask yourself a thousand times, "Will I ever be happy? Will I ever live my life without being scared? You're trying to co-exist with your nerves. You're always looking for something that you don't get depressed about. You've no reason to be afraid but you're gripped with fear."
"Feelings are constantly riding your rational mind. For example, you know there is no reason for you to feel that way but you still do. You can't talk yourself out of it. You reason with yourself about all the things that are positive in your life, but you still feel down."
"At times, you may go without feeling depressed, but you never feel free of depression. You never feel truly happy."
"Nobody can understand how you feel. If you really tell them what's going on with you, they'll think you're crazy. How can they understand, they never had to deal with anything like this on an everyday basis."
In spite of all the public awareness programs about depression, many patients suffering from this problem don't know that this problem has a name and that there are millions of people who suffer from it. The name of this particular emotional al disorder is "Dysthymic disorder, early onset." Hereditary factors are believed to play a role in this particular form of depression.
Some might have always had a problem with depression but at some point they get tired of fighting it and suddenly "crash." Some even attempt suicide and that's when others come to find out regarding the severity of the problem. That's when they are brought to the attention of a professional after many years of suffering.
Life long depression is highly treatable. A comprehensive treatment that includes medication, counseling, and family education has a very good chance of providing substantial and permanent relief.
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